A euphoric Javier Bello sank to his knees in the sand while twin Joaquin reflected on past moments of despair as the English brothers moved to within one win of guaranteeing a Commonwealth Games medal.
Joaquin noted the quarter-final stage of major events represented something of a banana skin for the Madrid-born siblings, who emigrated with their beach volleyball-obsessed family to the UK aged 11.
More heartache might have been in store after the Gambia pairing of Sainey Jawo and Mbye Babou Jarra forced a decider, but the Bellos dug deep to secure an exhilarating 21-16 20-22 15-12 win.
Supported by their team manager mother Barbara and coached by their father Luis, with younger brother Enrique a training partner, the 22-year-old Bellos recognised their triumph was not theirs alone.
“It meant everything,” Javier said after the win in front of almost 4,000 people at Smithfield. “I was overcome with emotion because it was such a special moment for our team and for our family.
“It’s the whole family behind the scenes, we’re so grateful for them that we can give back something.”
At just over 6ft, the Bellos pointed out they are the smallest team in the men’s competition and they were routinely troubled by the wiry presence of the 6ft 7in Jawo, who kept Gambia in the hunt.
Spurred on by the memory of a defeat against Argentina at the Youth Olympics four years ago – the last time they had played in front of such a big crowd in Buenos Aires – the home favourites fed off the energy of the support to set up a semi-final showdown against Canada’s Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing.
“For us, the quarter-finals, we hold a grudge against them because we’ve lost many of them over our careers,” Joaquin said.
“I was thinking of that one (against Argentina) here because we have more people this time supporting us and it meant the world. I’m just so thankful.”
Victory meant the Bellos, who go into the bronze medal match if they lose to their Canadian opponents on Saturday, bounced back after a lacklustre loss against New Zealand in their last group outing.
“We thought we fought hard against New Zealand, but there was another gear that we had and we went to it here,” Javier added
“Everything was just a lot more intense, a lot more high gear and we just fought harder and we stayed together, we kept believing we could do it and that was really, really important for us.”
In the women’s competition, Jess Grimson and Daisy Mumby went down against New Zealand’s Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley, who prevailed 21-13 21-15, while Scotland’s Lynne Beattie and Mel Coutts lost 21-11 21-11 to Tokyo 2020 silver medallists Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia.
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