Some dodgy Christmas cherries did as much to derail New Zealand's number one pairing of Mike Watson and Sam O'Dea than anything else at the Mauao Grand Slam Beach Volleyball tournament.
But despite O'Dea struggling with a nasty stomach bug courtesy of the little red delights, the Tauranga pair prevailed in yesterday's final at Mount Main Beach in three tough sets.
Tame Malcolm and Griffin Muller pushed the home town heroes all the way, taking the first set 21-18 before O'Dea and Watson came back to take the second 21-17 and the thrilling final set 19-17.
In the women's challenger final, the Tauranga pairing of Alice Bain and Kiana Tawa showed their undoubted talent in going all the way through to the final but were defeated in three sets by the more experienced pairing of Melissa Ruru and Shannon Bagge.
Watson says every tournament they play before June's final Olympic qualifying series in Australia is important. Only one New Zealand pair has been to the Olympics before and the two former Otumoetai College schoolmates are desperate to be the next.
"It is in the forefront of our mind. We are not thinking about anything else except the Olympics right now. Our gym programmes are based to peak in June so we are not really in our physically best shape at the moment. Everything we are doing is building up to that qualifying event so hopefully we can go to Rio," Watson said.
But they certainly did not have it their own way over two sizzling hot days on the sand.
Tom Hartles from Auckland and Bay of Plenty's Paora Morunga caused the biggest upset on Monday by inflicting the first home loss for O'Dea and Watson in their three years together.
"We never like losing on our home beach. The standard is a lot better now and much better competition which we need," Watson said. "Any loss is good. The important thing is that you learn from it."
The next home event for O'Dea and Watson is the Bay of Plenty Times Volleyball NZ National Beach Championships at Mount Maunganui on January 9 -10.
"We have won here for the last two years, so we definitely do not want anyone else getting their names on that trophy," Watson said.
Tournament organiser, Maria Woods from Volleyball Bay of Plenty, says every tournament held in the Bay of Plenty this year has seen an increase of at least 30 per cent on numbers from last year.
"It is just phenomenal and the number of young kids coming through playing satellite division is where it is growing the most. The sport is traditionally strong through all the schools in Tauranga," she said.