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2017-07-29 14:04:00 CEST

Patrick delighted after hero encounter

He used to watch him on TV, but nothing could prepare Patrick Lombi from facing hero Paolo Nicolai in the World Championships

The Olympic silver medalists were too strong for the men from Sierra Leone.The Olympic silver medalists were too strong for the men from Sierra Leone.

Ever since admiring Italian Olympic silver medalist Paolo Nicolai from afar when first playing beach volleyball, Patrick Lombi never in a million years expected to be lined up against him on the opposite side of the net.

That was exactly the situation presented to the Sierra Leone star on Saturday however, opening his the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by A1 debut in a match beyond his dreams.

Teaming up with Abu Bakarr Kamara in Vienna, Lombi also stepped on court in the first Sierra Leone team to ever play in the World Championships – the final step on a road they begun many a year ago.

For Lombi in particular it provided a whole host of emotion, a day he will remember for a long, long time – whatever the rest of his career holds.

“It’s a long journey, the road has been long and this is our first time in the World Championships, the first time we have been exposed to it and we are here to show our case,” he said.

“We are facing the people we really admire, we watched them in videos back home and now we are getting the chance to play against them.

“Nicolai has always been a favorite player, I admire him so much and he is my mentor, he inspired me to play beach volleyball right at the beginning and today that dream became a reality.

“It’s a great pleasure to play him, back home my fans, my people are watching, they admire us playing on this stage and we are really grateful for that.”

This Viennese honor comes just a year since competing FIVB under-21 World Championships, a huge step-up for the rookies to undertake against the strong Italian duo of Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, the Olympic runners-ups and European champions of 2016.

But they weren’t alone in their quest for victory, with Side Court 2 packed out from first spike to last, with no shortage of applause for each of the 15 points they accrued over two sets.

That noise was unlike anything the Sierra Leone pair had ever faced but, rather than be stressed by the task, it was one they relished and hope would be repeated sometime soon.

“This is a whole different level – this time around there is no time for jokes like there was in the age categories, we have told our fans on Facebook that we will never relent,” Patrick added.

“We have a long way to go, we can go away and learn from our mistakes and then come back next time. Our dream is to play on the world tour.

“It is a great pleasure to hear those fans, it is a big deal for us. To get that exposure you must have fans and those people following you, we are sorry that we lost but we gave it everything for them. This is the first time we’ve ever had anything like this.

“It’s a very big surprise being here, when we came to Vienna people were wondering who we were and how we qualified – it is a very big deal.”

Lombi and Kamara are next in Pool K action on Monday, against Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Yarzutkin, live on BeachStream at 5pm CET. Click here to sign-up!

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