2018-10-18 09:00:00 CET

Lee testing the beach volleyball waters

The American Olympic champion is not done with indoor yet, but he is planning a transition to the sand soon

Lee and partner Mark Burik played in their first World Tour event together in China last week (Photocredit: FIVB)Lee and partner Mark Burik played in their first World Tour event together in China last week (Photocredit: FIVB)

After 12 years playing for the US volleyball National Team, David Lee was preparing to have a rare quiet summer after he ended his latest indoor contract in Argentina. However, a call changed the plans of the Beijing 2008 Olympic champion and ignited on him the desire of testing himself in another sport.

One of the most accomplished American indoor players, the 36-year-old has been frequently seen on the sand since last May, when he made his debut in the American AVP. Since then, the veteran has become a regular in the domestic tour and has also competed in the King of the Court series.

But he actually didn’t plan for any of that.

“I had played a regional event in California last year and I finished second after just two practices,” Lee told beachmajorseries.com. “That made me think maybe I could be a competitive beach volleyball player. Tal Shavit, who was my partner in that tournament, called me to play in the AVP this season and I decided to give it a shot. I almost gave up after we lost in first round of qualification in our first event, buy fortunately things changed.”

What an event! Huge thanks to @kingofthecourtbeach @avpbeach and @markburik for letting me ball with some of the best beach players in the world!

2,527 Likes, 12 Comments - David Lee (@davidlee1982) on Instagram: "What an event! Huge thanks to @kingofthecourtbeach @avpbeach and @markburik for letting me ball..."

Lee’s beach experiment reached another level last week, when he played on his first World Tour event, a four-star tournament in Yangzhou, China. He and his current partner Mark Burik debuted with a win in the qualification tournament, but couldn’t get past experienced Australians Cole Durant and Damien Schumann, failing to advance to the main draw.

To the Olympic champion, however, despite of the frustrating result, the experience was worth it.

“I wanted to test the water,” he explained. “I honestly didn’t think I would have a chance to play in a four-star World Tour event with zero international points, but some American teams decided not to go to China and that gave us a good opportunity. It was good to get my first taste of victory, but I am definitely hungry to be at the top.”

Lee is not the only member of the 2008 US team to attempt a career at the beach. Five other players of that roster have stepped in the sands at some point of their careers and two of them remain involved with the sport – Rich Lambourne, who coaches the American team of Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb and Reid Priddy, who’s been playing with Jeremy Casebeer.

Priddy, by the way, is sort of a role model to Lee as he adjusts to the new playing surface.

“I didn’t talk to any of them because I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted,” the American explained. “Reid creates a lot of content about his transition and what it took him to be among the best and I think he should be an example to any indoor player moving to the beach. He brought in a team of experts which helped catapult him to the top of the sport in a year.”

Lee (4) and Priddy were partners in three Olympic campaigns, having won a gold and a bronze medals (Photocredit: FIVB)Lee (4) and Priddy were partners in three Olympic campaigns, having won a gold and a bronze medals (Photocredit: FIVB)

Unlike Priddy, however, Lee is not ready yet to make a full-time commitment to beach volleyball. The veteran is still eyeing an indoor contract overseas and then, after that, he might be prepared to fully embrace the sport.

“I’ve been trying to stay in shape and become a better all-around player with beach volleyball,” he commented. “But I still plan on taking a short-term contract indoors, possibly in Europe, Asia or in the Middle East, this season. But I’ve been enjoying the beach and hopefully I will return next summer.”

The first few months at the beach, though, have given Lee, who resides in San Diego, California, a good idea on which areas of his game need to be developed for him to become a competitive beach volleyball player when he decides to return.

“I had little contact with the sport before this season,” Lee added. “The hardest part of transition to me have been receiving and setting, because these are skills I never trained indoors as a middle-blocker. I believe I can be a great blocker, though, and a good side out player, but only time will tell if I’ll be able to master all the skills required to be a top beach player.”

The indoor player has had four different partners during the AVP season (Photocredit: AVP)The indoor player has had four different partners during the AVP season (Photocredit: AVP)

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