The Feel Good Too Centre in Leyton will be hosting the CEV Continental Cup this summer and the players who will be representing England on home sand have been selected.
A route to qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Continental Cup is a prestigious event and hosting it in England has been made possible by the local Waltham Forest Council committing to bringing top class sport to the area. The incentive for the England teams to progress from the round one event in London is that the third and final round of the Continental Cup is exclusively for teams which have not already qualified for the Olympic Games through their rankings or other qualification tournaments.
Hosted on Saturday 25th and Sunday May 26th, the event will be played in a thrilling format with each country having two pairs who will compete together as one team, in ties which are best of three matches. The country’s first pair will play each other, while the second pairs will also face off. If the tie is level after two matches, the contest will be decided by a golden match. This has the added spice that the national team coach can pick any two of their four players to compete in the decisive match.
The England teams
The England women’s team, which will face France, Belarus and Northern Ireland, has a great blend of youth and experience. The selected pairs are Vicky Palmer and Jess Grimson, and Ellie Austin and Anaya Evans.
Multiple winners of the national title on the sand, Vicky Palmer and Jess Grimson are England’s number one women’s beach pair and have competed on the World Tour. They reached the pinnacle of their career’s to date when they became the first women to represent England at beach volleyball at a Commonwealth Games when they competed at the Games on the Gold Coast last March.
Just 20 and 17 years old respectively, Anaya Evans and Ellie Austin are two rising stars of English beach volleyball. They have come through the England Talent Pathway and have represented their country at volleyball too. Notably, Ellie achieved the highest ever place for a junior England women’s pair at a European event. The pair have experience playing in CEV, FIVB and NEVZA events but this step up to senior level will be a great opportunity for them.
The men’s four-man squad has a similar exciting mix of experience. The selected pairs are Chris Gregory and Issa Batrane, and Javier and Joaquin Bello. They will come together to compete against Switzerland, Armenia and Bulgaria in May..
Chris Gregory is a stalwart of beach volleyball in this country. A multiple national champion on the sand, Chris has won NEVZA beach tournaments and has represented Great Britain at a European Games. Last year, the 210cm tall Chris was a colossal presence as he finished fourth, with his partner Jake Sheaf, at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Issa Batrane has been playing alongside Chris and is a fledging talent who has come through the England Talent Pathway for both volleyball and beach volleyball. He has a wealth of experience competing in junior FIVB, CEV and NEVZA events.
Twin brothers Javier and Joaquin Bello are well-recognised in the volleyball community with a long list of achievements, despite only being 18 years old. The pair have represented England at youth level on the beach and indoor on many occasions and have had spectacular junior careers. They won gold in the Youth Commonwealth Games, before finishing 5th at last year’s Youth Olympic Games.
Both the men’s and women’s squads have selected reserves who will be eligible to replace any of the players in the event of an injury before the competitions starts.
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