It'll be seven months on Monday since Tauranga's O'Dea brothers won a bronze medal in the men's beach volleyball at the Commonwealth Games, yet in that time Ben O'Dea, the younger of the two, hasn't played a game.

"I had to wait for an approval from ACC to get my shoulder surgery done," he says.

"I finally had it four months ago so it's been recovery for me since then."

Brother Sam has been playing in Germany and on the Asian Tour but he's back now and the two are preparing for the New Zealand season, the high point of which will be the New Zealand championships on Mount Maunganui's Main Beach on January 5 and 6.


Looking back, it's almost a miracle the brothers were able to get to the Commonwealth Games at all, let alone win a bronze medal.

"I had this labrum tear, a shoulder tear for three years," says Ben.

"They don't all need surgery so I tried to rehab mine for a couple of years. I tried everything under the sun. I didn't want it operated on but it got to the point where surgery was the only option."

So how did he get away with playing injured for so long, and to such a high level?

"We sort of managed it as best we could leading up to the games. We had some great support from some physios and surgeon Matt Brick and I had a little bit of painkiller which helped during the games, but it was just getting to the point where I was having to use my left hand more than my right arm so that was a signal to us and the team that it was best to sort it out properly."

Much of O'Dea's recovery during his winter months in the Mount has been with cold water therapy, which at the same time has allowed him to give back to a community that has been supportive of the brothers during their playing careers.

"I was interested in the health benefits of cold immersion or cold therapy, what's called the Wim Hoff method.

"But I've also been doing some work with the Tauranga Youth Development Team (TYDT) and I figured I could raise money for them. Something they were struggling with was kids not having enough warm clothes during the winter," he says.

O'Dea's way of helping was to do 76 cold water swims during the depths of winter, from which he raised just over $5000 for the TYDT.

"It was no skin off my back. It didn't feel like a chore. It was easy, just one swim a day and recovery wise, it helped my shoulder a lot."

The swims were mainly in Pilot Bay, without a wet suit, but he also had a dip in the Karangahake Gorge on the way to Auckland once, and made a point of getting into some glacier-fed rivers and lakes as well.

"It was a bit difficult at the beginning just after the surgery when I couldn't move my shoulder and I couldn't actually swim so I just had to sit in there."

Now with Sam home, the brothers are back to training every day and working on a pathway they hope will get them to the Tokyo Olympics.

Tauranga's Ben O'Dea (left) and Sam O'Dea are back to training every day aiming to get to the Tokyo Olympics. Photo / File
Tauranga's Ben O'Dea (left) and Sam O'Dea are back to training every day aiming to get to the Tokyo Olympics. Photo / File

"At the moment, it's a massive planning phase. We are on the beach every day but we are trying to put the pieces together so that once we start competing everything falls into place and we can focus on just playing."

That includes finding sponsorship and working out a schedule for the next 21 months, a time which will include the demanding qualifying period for the Olympics.

The plan is to base themselves in Germany next year where their coach Markus Diekmann lives and play in Europe, Asia and the US.

Ideally, they'd like to qualify as one of the top 15 pairs in the world but think that may be a bridge too far because of their late start as a consequence of Ben's injury.

The other qualifying path is through good performances in Asian tournaments.

Before that process starts though, they're a favourite for the Team of the Year title at the Bay of Plenty Sports awards next Friday.

"Now that I'm fully fit, we're back into playing as much volleyball as we can which we haven't been able to do for a couple of years because of injury. So it's exciting."