FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Win a gold medal, race to the airport.
That’s pretty much how it went down for Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena on Sunday. First they beat Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai 21-12, 21-17 to win the FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major, and then they bolted for the airport, headed to another FIVB event that starts Wednesday in Doha, Qatar. It takes about 24 hours to get there.
“This is the third time we’ve medalled here and we finally got the gold,” Dalhausser said. “it’s been avoiding us, I guess, for the first few years, but we finally got it, and the fashion in which we got it was really awesome.”
Nicolai has nothing but praise for the winners.
“Today they deserved to win. They played much better than us. So congrats to Phil and Nick. They played amazing all week and they played amazing today. They beat us and they deserved to beat us,” Lupo said.
The big difference was the service, in the second set we tried to receive some good balls, and we did, but they played better than us. They did everything better than us.”
Dalhausser and Lucena were better than everyone all week. The pair never lost a set in six matches. Being the No. 1 seed helped, but they more than took care of business, which took a lot of pressure off their respective 38-year-old bodies.
“You have to put your time in, just like everybody else. You can’t just win right off the bat, it just doesn’t work that way. That’s why Nick and I have a big, huge advantage. We’re both 38, we can push game plans within a tournament or within a match,” Dalhausser said.
“I think it’s a big advantage that we’re one of the oldest teams on the tour.”
Being older, of course, means more things to consider.
“We literally are like a walking medical clinic, the amount of crap we pack,” Dalhausser cracked. “We have Normatec, Graston Tool, cupping, rollers, two different types, both vibrate, one’s a ball and one’s a regular roller (the Vyper and Hydrasphere), and one of those, it’s like a drill, but has several different percussive tips.
“And then there’s all kind of stretching straps and on top of that all of the supplements and that crap as well. So that’s what it takes at our age to stay in top physical shape.”
“I still feel young, although I’m old, but I think playing in front of your fans gives you some adrenaline that you can use in some critical points,” Lucena said. “We had some rallies where we got tired, but the crowd’s into it, so you use that, feed off it. It was awesome.”
Both live in Florida, Lucena up north in Tallahassee, and Dalhausser in Orlando, in the center of the state.
After Doha, I’ll be home for a week, then we’ll be bouncing back and forth for training to Tallahassee,” Dalhausser said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s a sacrifice we have to make when we moved to Florida. We knew that, and it’s the biggest con to moving. Right now I want to go out for a steak dinner with a couple of bottles of wine, but we can’t do that, when we get back we’ll do that.”
Dalhausser and Lucena split $40,000, while Lupo and Nicolai divvied up $32,000.
“Latvia got third place and they’re one of the strongest teams on the tour,” Lucena said. “There are so many strong teams, Brazil, U.S., a handful of other teams that can win.
“We’re fortunate enough to win, and it all starts over again when we go to Doha. We have to restart, and play again, and try and win that one.
“You change some things, but you also learn. We have so many years of experience. But we have to stay on top of your bodies. We’re old, so we can’t take any days off.”
Their coach, Jason Lochhead, won’t allow it.
“After Qatar we have five weeks until China, so that’s when we’ll work on a lot of stuff,” Lochhead said. “We always want to try and pick out things even though they played amazing all tournament. They didn’t drop a set, but there’s a good bunch of things we can work on, we’ll definitely pick that stuff out. We’re always trying to get 1 percent better, so we’ll keep doing that.
“We’ll be working on serves, some things with our swing, in transition we’re diving around too much, but a couple of things.”
In the match for third place, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia (12) beat Pedro Solberg and George Wanderley of Brazil 21-17, 21-17.
“It’s perfect. If you compare it to last season, we had some problems, some injuries, we weren’t in our best shape,” Smedins said. “This year we wanted to prove ourselves to our sponsors, we wanted to come back stronger, we got into the gym to become physically stronger, and I’m proud of us, because we had three difficult months in camps, and now we got this result.”