Hyden's clock still ticking in Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, September 14, 2016 - Even with the temptation to call a significant victory a triumph that turns back the clock, it really isn’t that way for John Hyden.

For the 43-year-old, defying age on the world’s biggest stages of Beach Volleyball means that clock is still ticking. And it won’t stop after the 2016 season.

What, does this guy enjoy the aches and pains and injuries and worldwide travel that his sport challenges him with?

Men’s Wednesday recaps

RECAP - Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins, Latvia
def. Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel, Poland, 2-1 (21-17, 22-24, 15-9), 55 minutes

RECAP - Tri Bourne/John Hyden, United States def. Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg, Brazil, 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 15-12), 49

RECAP - Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Brazil
def. Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri, Italy, 2-0 (21-18, 21-15), 36

RECAP - Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena, United States
def. Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter, Canada, 2-1 (16-21, 21-16, 15-9), 45

Well, not really. But Hyden’s career will reach its 17 th season next year, even if it looked like his last chance to qualify for the Olympics slipped by might have been a natural stopping point. But on he goes.

“I’m surprised I’m not more broken down than I could be, that’s for sure,” Hyden said with a smile. “I look forward to the offseason very much.”

With partner Tri Bourne, Hyden made a valiant run at a Rio 2016 spot but fell short of reaching the goal as fellow Americans Phil Dalhuasser/Nick Lucena and Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson edged them out.

But rather than take stock in his career, Hyden and Bourne built up enough qualifying points on the FIVB World Tour to reach the SWATCH World Tour Finals this week. And they validated their qualification Wednesday when they rallied to defeat Brazilian Olympians Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg in their first match, 19-21, 21-19, 15-12.

The rewards of reaching the World Tour Finals helped take the sting out of the Olympic miss after a long, grinding season. Perhaps someone his age surviving that was an Olympian feat in itself.

“It’s been a long season,” Hyden said. “Physically I’m all right. I’ve had my normal issues with my hip, my ankle. That’s just the way it goes now. But the rest of the body feels pretty good, which is kind of surprising.

“I did know it was going to be grind. I know a lot of people don’t think about all the airline miles we put in, sitting in small seats. That’s really what crushes. To be able to get off a plane and your back is sore, your neck is sore, everything’s tight and not get injured through all of that is a pretty tough deal.”

To go along with his 25 Association of Volleyball Professionals victories on the American domestic circuit, Hyden’s lone FIVB championship was historic. In the 2014 Berlin Grand Slam, Hyden and Bourne rolled through the field to capture the title, winning all but one set in eight matches.

At 41 years, 8 months and 15 days, he became the oldest player to capture a title on the FIVB circuit.

But wait, there’s more. He’ll head into the 2017 season with Bourne again. With that said, Hyden knows the finish line is not too far off.

“I kind of do (look at it) because I know going into this offseason that next year we don’t have to play opens, we don’t have to start early, all that stuff,” Hyden said of the chase for Olympic qualifying points. “We don’t have to play late, like usually we have to play that Puerto Vallarta (event) in another month so you’ve got to still train. Just knowing I don’t have to do that and have a longer offseason it makes a world of difference.

“For me now it’s kind of year-round thing, staying in shape. I just can’t allow myself to let loose at all. It’s that much tougher to get it back and that’s where you start to get injuries.”

So retirement is when?

“It’s kind of open-ended. Right now, it’s one more year,” Hyden said. “Tri and I have talked a little bit about next year. There’s really nobody for either of us to pick up if we split, just because points-wise it doesn’t make sense. But he has to start thinking about the next Olympics and starting to work with a partner.”

That will come in time, of course. But Hyden has had his victories and has been a mentor and coach to Bourne, who is 16 years younger.

“It was just the perfect situation right when I needed it,” Bourne said. “I love beach, I always took pride in being good on the beach but I never had the shot at it and then I put in my time indoors and worked really hard and started learning to be a professional athlete on my own and then being super open to anyone who could teach me.

“And I got picked up by probably the most professional person and I got to block on the beach, which is perfect for me. So it was just like perfect timing, the ideal partner, and it’s worked out pretty well.”

Bourne has his own aspirations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but he’s going nowhere for at least a year. Hyden admits letting his future creep into his thoughts as the year went on, but he looked for silver linings instead of dreading what another year traveling the world in a demanding sport would mean for someone his age.

“Three-quarters of the way through the year, I’m thinking to myself ‘Oh, next year we don’t have to play all these opens, don’t have to travel so much and this and that,’ ” Hyden said. “I was always thinking about it in a positive way that we don’t have to do so much next year.”

For now, all he has to think about is advancing in the World Tour Finals as 12 of the top teams in the world compete for the US$100,000 top prize. Truth be told, if Hyden didn’t play the amount he has this year, he and Bourne might not have qualified for the Toronto event.

“Yeah, we did enough to get here by playing all those opens,” Hyden said after a season of competing in 16 FIVB tournament plus two on the AVP. “It’s kind of a nice reward for players that go to all the events. We’re really stoked about that, getting here.”


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