Rio Olympians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have ended a solid year of competition with FIVB Beach Volleyball Tour gold, when they competed in the last event of the season in Chetumal, Mexico over the weekend.
It was a golden end to the year for the pair, who clinched World Championship bronze in July, overcoming injuries and fighting back from behind.
Artacho del Solar sustained an MCL tear in Round One of the World Championships, missing World Tour events between July and October and fought through a strained abdominal which she sustained during the quarterfinals of the three-star event in China last month, but the injuries weren't enough to knock the top-seeded team off the podium of the four-star event.
"At World Champs, I struggled to warm up properly. I tore my MCL but once the game started and the adrenaline kicked in, it helped me to push through," Artacho del Solar said of her knee injury.
She pushed through the pain and the team won bronze. After some time off to recover, the team made their return this month in the three-star event at Qinzhou, China where they finished fourth, before heading to Mexico.
"In Mexico I pushed myself every game and my ab would get a little worse. I really felt it in the finals but I narrowed my focus to one movement at a time and together with T (Clancy), we stayed patient and just walked the race. Communication and trust was very important in getting through."
In winning their sixth World Tour gold medal (and 11 medals in total from 21 events as a team), the duo came from behind three times in three matches in Chetumal, defeating China's Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia in the finals 15-21, 21-14, 15-12 and maintained an undefeated streak for the event, beating their Chinese competitors for the fifth time over the World Tour.
"We've played them (China) a lot and we know they're a really good team," Artacho del Solar said of their win.
"We didn't start well, but for us, it was about being patient, sticking to our game plan and believing we could turn things around.
"To win this tournament meant a lot to us."
Their final result will add 800 points to their world and Olympic ranking totals in a positive step towards Tokyo 2020 qualification.
"We talk a lot about staying patient and trusting the process throughout the season," Artacho del Solar continued.
"We have a special connection, we trust and believe in each other which is a big asset. We are always on the same page, share the same values and goals and enjoy every moment competing."
Clancy commended her teammate on her recovery and was proud of what they had been able to achieve together this season.
"Unfortunately we were forced to take some time off due to Mariafe's injury, but her rehab went so well that I think she came back even stronger," she said.
"I'm so proud of her and what we could do as a team in 2019. It's amazing that we managed to pick up right where we left off.
"I felt our game was flowing really well and it's great that we managed to end the year on a high."