03_BPT Tlaxcala - CHIvsPOL Gold Medal match

Aravena and Droguett had a remarkable run in the Mexican Challenge tournament

Noe Aravena and Vicente Droguett might not have left Tlaxcala with the elusive gold medals around their necks, but the memories the Chileans will carry of the city that hosted the first Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event will certainly be sweet.

The young South Americans had a remarkable run in last week’s tournament, starting the event ranked 13th in the qualifier and only stopped at the gold medal match by eventual champions Michal Bryl and Bartosz Losiak, a pair of accomplished Polish Olympians.

The best beach volleyball teams in the world would have been proud to boast Aravena and Droguett’s campaign in Tlaxcala as the young Chileans not only won seven of the nine matches they played in a span of five days, but did so while defeating nine Olympians and five Olympic medallists along the way.

“We’re all really happy, what they’ve done is historic,” said Chilean national team coach, Paulao Moreira. “We’re proud of our little giants. It’s been great teamwork by everyone involved, but it wouldn’t have happened without their hard work. They’ve shown great maturity in this tournament and surprised even me with some of the things they did. We’ll keep working and will go for more.”

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But the experience of the Chileans in Tlaxcala went well beyond winning and losing beach volleyball matches. With their passionate and entertaining playing style, the 19-year-old Aravena and the 21-year-old Droguett won the fans over and had massive support from the stands in all of their matches.

“We got to play in front of a sold-out stadium a few times this week and nearly everyone was on our side,” added Aravena. “That’s priceless. We love playing in environments like this and entertaining the public, and it helped us a lot on the court.”

The silver medal they won in Tlaxcala is certainly the biggest accomplishment of their young careers so far, but those who think it might be the result of a lucky week are certainly missing the big picture.

Before their breakthrough in Mexico, the two Chileans competed in four stops on the South American Tour in 2022, finishing in the top five at all of them and claiming one silver and one bronze medal. Their memorable campaign in Tlaxcala took place in what was just the second international event of their careers, and now they’re looking for more.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough points to play in Rosarito, but hopefully we can play in some Elite 16 qualifiers down the road,” Droguett reflected. “This is just our second international tournament together and this result shows we can dream big. We’ll keep working hard to get where we want.”

With the rise of the two young players, Chilean beach volleyball is beginning to flirt with the possibility of having not one, but two men’s teams competing at the highest level of international beach volleyball.

Grimalt cousins Marco and Esteban are role models for Aravena and Droguett and represented their country at both the Rio and the Tokyo Olympics. They were among the happiest with their young compatriots' success in Tlaxcala.

The members of the Chilean team stormed the court after each victory in Mexico and used their social media channels to share Aravena and Droguett’s magical moments in the tournament and help raise their profiles in their country.

“It’s really incredible what they did,” the 32-year-old Marco said. “We train with them and saw how much they’ve improved in such a short period of time. They were living a dream and having a lot of fun with that, and that got the crowd behind them. We’re really happy for them and for the great work that’s being done with beach volleyball in Chile.”

The tournament in Tlaxcala was just the first step for the young Chileans, but it was a memorable one. After what they did, the sky is the limit.

“To be among the best of the best is one of our goals and we’ll work for that,” Aravena reflected. “We’ve been sacrificing a lot every single day and now that we’ve started to see our hard work pay off, it just motivates us to keep pushing.”