Rio silver medallists Nicolai and Lupo ready for Olympic challenge

The Italians are set to begin their third Olympic tournament

One of the most experienced pairs in international beach volleyball, Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo look forward to beginning their campaign at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 against Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler at 20.00 local time (13.00 GMT) on Sunday. The pair coached by Matteo Varnier claimed their berth at this year's Olympics as early as September 2019 when they won the Tokyo Beach Volleyball Qualification tournament in Haiyang, China. Silver medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, they will be one of the teams to beat in Japan.

Paolo Nicolai: “It is a great pride to be here, having qualified for the Olympics for a third time is something extremely important for us. Now we just want to play in front of the five Olympic rings. It is always a special feeling. We are aware that the path will be difficult; there are pairs who have shown that they are a little ahead of us at the moment, but experience teaches us that an Olympic tournament is completely different. Having already been to an Olympic tournament is an advantage in my opinion. We are here to win all our games. We will start all our games with the will to win and try to go all the way. But this year's field is more competitive than ever."

Daniele Lupo: “Being here is a fantastic feeling. The venue is very beautiful and Paolo and I can't wait to get on the court. We have been together for eleven years. For us it will be the third Olympics. We are very close and combined with the experience of the last few years, this can be a small advantage. Being the runners-up at Rio is not a burden. On the contrary, it is a pleasure and an honour. We can't wait to play and will aim to give our best. We will not underestimate anyone at this tournament, but we will not be fearful either. My philosophy is to always have fun while playing, to never forget that being here is a joy."

The words of the two athletes are echoed by those of their coach Matteo Varnier. “I am very excited and happy to be here to live this experience," he said. "It is the third Olympics for me (two as first coach, one as assistant). Paolo, Daniele and I are more than a team now. We can say that we are a family. Knowing each other so well for so many years can be an advantage and could be a point in our favour when we are forced to face difficult moments in a tournament like this. From a technical point of view, this Olympics will be very complicated in my opinion because there are really many teams here that can have their say. The technical level in recent years has risen a lot and the turnover on the podium has been remarkable. Of course, we too are among the favourites and we are aware that there are expectations from this point of view."

The beach volleyball tournament at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 begins on Saturday, July 24 at 9.00 local time (2.00 GMT) when Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami of Japan take on Czech pair Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova.

Quick links:
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - Schedule and results
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - Beach volleyball
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

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