As one of Canada’s top beach volleyball duos, the McNamara twins who turn 23-years-old today, most certainly have an Olympic Games or several in their future.
In what promises to be a long professional career, Megan and Nicole count their FISU experience as one of the top highlights. The twins raised in British Columbia won two national championships competing with the UCLA Bruins, before their career-defining World University Championship experience.
Megan and Nicole McNamara on top of the podium at the 2018 FISU World University Beach Volleyball ChampionshipIn July 2018, almost exactly two years ago, Megan and Nicole won their first international gold medal while competing at the World University Beach Volleyball Championship in Munich, Germany.
After a perfect round-robin competition, the duo had back-to-back come-from-behind-victories in the quarters and semifinals.They then won a spirited match against Spain to take home the gold in front of a raucous crowd that included their parents.
“The whole experience was great,” Megan said.
“It was a really well-run tournament and to get that gold medal, that’s something we had always dreamed of. We had gotten a bronze and silver at different international tournaments and that was pretty cool too.”
The McNamaras said they had a professional approach while in Germany.
“We had quite a bit of downtime and went to different parts of the city,” Megan said. “But at the same time, it was a work trip. We were also taking it very seriously so we were resting and taking care of ourselves as best as we could.”
Given the differences in style from the NCAA, competing at international events like FISU forced the twins to adapt on the court.
“One of the biggest differences is that the girls are just physically a lot stronger, can hit the ball harder, and can play a faster game in international events,” Megan said. “In the NCAA, there’s a lot of shots and tactics. Internationally, there are some powerhouses.”
The McNamara’s FISU gold medal is just one of dozens of accolades the duo has earned in recent years. During their NCAA careers, they won two national championships, made Pac-12 conference all-star teams, and earned several academic honours.
“It was pretty demanding, time-wise,” Megan said. “There are a lot of resources also at UCLA to help all of the athletes manage their courseloads and their studies. They definitely helped. We’d also try to take the tougher, more demanding classes in the fall when we weren’t in season and when we were in season, we’d try to take some online classes just so we could travel and focus on the sport. When we were in season, our number one priority was winning the championship.”
The McNamara twins first learned to play beach volleyball while on vacation in Mexico. Their family would take a yearly trip to the same resort, which had a court that their father played on.
“It’s just such a fun sport,” Megan said. “You’re outside. You’re on the beach in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Being out there with Nicole, it’s just the two of us. It’s so unique and so special.”
A few years removed from their first serves on that court in Mexico, the McNamaras are inspiring the next generation of beach volleyball players.
“It’s really cool,” Megan said. “But at the beginning, it was kind of strange to have these young girls come up to us and say that they really look up to us and idolize us. We’re like, ‘Really, us?’”
“It was definitely kind of strange at the beginning but now we love being able to inspire all the young athletes, especially in Canada, that it is possible.”