After spending the last ten years together to form what was the most successful team in Italian beach volleyball history, Olympic medallists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai have announced they will play with different partners in 2022, a year that will be highlighted by the inaugural season of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour.

Partners since 2011, Lupo and Nicolai competed together in 11 seasons, representing Italy in 105 international events and securing 22 podium appearances and three gold medals on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. They were the first Italian team to win a World Tour event, in Fuzhou, in 2014, and are the only Italian team to have reached the top of the FIVB World Rankings. The two also gave the country its first European title, in 2014, a victory they would repeat in 2016 and 2017.

Lupo and Nicolai’s Olympic history deserves a special chapter in their biography as a team. In their first appearance, at London 2012, when they were 21 and 23 respectively, they knocked out defending champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser of the United States in the Round of 16. Four years later, in Rio, they took silver and became the first Italian team to take a plce on the podium at the Games. Their fifth-place finish in Tokyo, earlier this year, made of them the first Italians to appear in three Olympic editions.


Nicolai and Lupo pose with the silver medals of the Rio 2016 Olympics

Their final tournament together was the 2021 FIVB World Tour Finals in Sardinia, Italy, when they finished fourth.

“This wasn’t an easy decision, but we felt like we needed something new at this point,” the 33-year-old Nicolai explained. “That will help us in finding motivation to continue doing the best we can. Italian beach volleyball will be split into before and after Lupo/Nicolai, and even though the team was known by just our names, we need to thank everyone that’s been a part of it.”

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The Italians in action in their last tournament together

Lupo will join forces with another Olympian, 34-year-old Alex Ranghieri, and the new team is entered in the World Tour four-star event in Itapema in November, where they’re expected to make their debut. Nicolai will join forces with a younger partner, 22-year-old Samuele Cottafava, who won this year’s Italian Tour title with Jakob Windisch.

The two new teams hope to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and also to represent Italy when the country hosts next year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.

“It’s been a great journey for both of us, we grew together as athletes but also as men,” Lupo, 30, added. “It was a really interesting project for both of us and it proved to be a successful one, but now it’s time we turn the page and go for something new. It’s weird to go separate ways after so long, but we are doing it because we have new challenges ahead of us.”