Victory in the recent Nationals was doubly sweet for duo Mohan and Pradeep John — it was their fourth title and first win on home turf
Pradeep John clenched his fists and shouted in relief. He then looked up at the heavens and touched the net as a mark of respect before giving his friend and partner Mohan a tight hug. The top pair's fourth National beach volleyball title at the Marina last Saturday, was significant in more ways than one. The pair clinched its first title in 2002, a decade ago. But, this was the first time the duo had won a National title in its hometown.
“It was frustrating not to win, despite being in three finals (1999, 2004 and 2005) in Tamil Nadu. Maybe we were tense, or too excited. It's great we were able to pull it off this time,” say the winning duo.
The journey together began in 1999 when they chose to end their volleyball careers. Being tall and talented players, the transition to beach volleyball was relatively smooth.
Hailing from the same district —Tirunelveli — the pair bonded well and as their game evolved, their understanding of each other got better. “I am spontaneous and a bit outspoken, while he is diplomatic. We hold no grudge towards each other. And the fact that we both belong to the same organisation — State Bank of India — has helped,” says Pradeep, adding, “we've known each other since 1994 as juniors when we played for Tamil Nadu.”
The champions' long stint as a duo has proved that persistence pays. There were critics (mainly from the administration) who wrote them off. There were snide remarks that the two should take up coaching (meaning, pave the way for junior players).
But, Pradeep and John believe they still have a lot to contribute. “The victory now proves, beyond a doubt, we are still there — winning, not just being there. We are here to stay,” says Pradeep.
The duo are in their late thirties (Pradeep is 36 and Mohan, 37). But an unfazed Mohan says, “If we are able to win now, it shows we are fit and can continue for another two to three years.”
Pradeep and John feel they deserve recognition. “We have been playing beach volleyball for almost 13 years and have been in nine finals of the Senior National championship. We are easily one of the better pairs in the country. We deserve more recognition and support from the Beach Volleyball Council,” says Pradeep.
Not interested in dwelling on the negatives, Mohan says they need to focus on fitness, diet, practice and forthcoming tournaments — National and International.
Mohan and Pradeep suggest that more prize money events should be conducted which will not only help the players financially but also take the sport to a different level. “More tournaments mean the players will be in touch with the sport and their standards will remain high,” says Mohan.
Pradeep is of the opinion that more tournaments should be conducted at the State and National level; more importantly, the Beach Volleyball Council should encourage more clubs to conduct events. “The sport has to be marketed well. It has the potential to grow; sponsors have to be roped in. There are no qualified coaches now. So, senior players, who have performed well at the International events, can be asked to help the juniors,” says Pradeep.
The pair's desire is to win one more International tournament before hanging up its boots. “We won our only International title in Bangladesh, in 2008. One more podium finish in an International event will be great. Then we can devote our time to coaching youngsters, of course, with the blessings of the Volleyball Federation of India and the Beach Volleyball Council,” says Pradeep.