Top Mexican Teams Together For Olympic Dream 

CANCUN, Mexico, April 24, 2021 - Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros have been the face of Mexican beach volleyball on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour for the last decade. They were the first men’s team in their nation to step on a podium, have also secured a gold medal at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto and represented Mexico at the Rio 2016 Olympics. 

As the two approach the end of their careers with Ontiveros turning 38 at the end of the year and Virgen recently celebrating his 34th birthday, another team has started challenging them for the position of top Mexican team on tour. 

They might only have played in six World tour events so far, but 24-year-old Jose Rubio and 23-year-old Josue Gaxiola have already made strides with a silver medal won at last year’s 4-star event in Doha, Qatar. They also won a pair of NORCECA tournaments in 2018 and 2019. 

The pair, who won the silver medal at the 2016 FIVB U21 World Championship, entered the three tournaments at the Cancun Hub as the highest-ranked Mexicans and secured the country’s only victory in the event so far. It was a meaningful one as they upset Brazilians Bruno Schmidt, a Rio 2016 Olympic champion, and Evandro Goncalves, a 2017 world champion, to knock them out of the tournament. 

However, being considered the country’s top team above the veterans Ontiveros and Virgen is not a big deal for them. 

“I honestly don’t care who’s number one or number two,” said Gaxiola. “For me, considering for how long Lombardo and Juan have been representing Mexico, I think they deserve to be number one no matter what. But at the end of the day, the four of us are Mexico and our goal is always to represent Mexico as well as we can.” 

The respect they have for their compatriots comes not only from watching them represent their country in a great way around the world for so long, but also from the close relationship they have developed from training together in Mazatlan. 

The country’s top three teams practise together with head Salvador Gonzalez and the hope is that they push each other to to be better. 

“Practising with them has made a great difference for us,” Gaxiola added. “We haven’t played a lot internationally, so to be able to get that high level of competition every day from them and Sarabia and Stephens in training is great. Playing against the international teams is always a challenge.” 

Gaxiola has enjoyed some recent success with Rubio in international tournaments

The Mexicans will be more united than ever in two months when their country will stage the final round of the NORCECA Continental Cup in Colima. As the tournament’s system has two teams per gender representing each country, it will be up to Gaxiola/Rubio and Virgen/Ontiveros to try to qualify Mexico for the Olympics for a second-straight time. 

“This will be a very important tournament for us as it’s Mexico’s opportunity to have a team at the Olympics,” the defender commented. “I believe now we have two teams that are in a position to compete with any other in our region and we hope everything goes well. Cuba and Canada should come with strong teams and we respect them, but will do our best to get the Olympic berth.”