Sport

Volleyball stars reach for the skies

By George Ramsay, for CNN

Updated 1623 GMT (0023 HKT) February 9, 2017
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Phil Dalhausser -- who won Olympic gold in the men's volleyball at the 2008 Olympics -- takes aim at the sun at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ahead of the Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series event. Dustin Snipes/Red Bull
The series of images -- entitled "Spike the Sun" -- were captured by photographer Dustin Snipes. A "spike" is an attacking shot similar to the overhead smash in tennis. Red Bull/Dustin Snipes
Capturing the perfect picture wasn't easy. "There was a lot of jumping involved that's for sure -- getting the right angle, for me to be in the perfect spot," Dalhausser told CNN. Dustin Snipes/Red Bull
They were inspired by another series of photos taken by Snipes -- "Dunk the Sun" -- featuring NBA star Anthony Davis. Dustin Snipes/Red Bull Content Pool
Dalhausser was joined at the early morning shoot by compatriot Lauren Fendrick. The California native will also compete on this year's Tour, and this week's event is the first major beach volleyball tournament of the season. Dustin Snipes/Red Bull
Fendrick, 34, competed at her first Olympics in Rio last year but failed to make it past the group stages. Dustin Snipes/Red Bull
The Beach Volleyball World Tour takes in 26 sites across 20 countries. The highlights include the five Major Series events -- of which Fort Lauderdale is one -- and the World Tour finals which conclude the season in August. Locations range from Rio to Rome, The Hague to Hamburg. Dustin Snipes/Red Bull Content Pool
Dalhausser was only introduced to volleyball in his final year of high school. "It was in large part because my maths teacher was the school coach," he says. "I thought I'd try it out and just fell in love with the sport right away. I became completely addicted." Dustin Snipes/Red Bull
At 6 feet 9 inches, he is one of the biggest men on the Tour, something he says has both pros and cons. "It definitely helps around the net," he explains. "But usually the taller guys aren't so nimble; they don't have that great ball control, so their passing and setting aren't as good because of a higher center of gravity." Dustin Snipes/Red Bull
At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Dalhausser and US teammate Todd Rogers beat Brazil to win gold. He says it's "100%" the highlight of his career: "To win the Olympics is just the pinnacle." THOMAS COEX/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Dalhausser is pictured with playing partner Nick Lucena on last year's Tour. They've been a team since 2015, but have known each other much longer. "We actually met in 2000 or 2001," says Dalhausser. "We're both from Florida and we played the amateur beach volleyball tournaments down there in our early 20s. So we have a little bit of history and we stayed friends throughout those years." Mihai Stetcu/ Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series/ Red Bull Content Pool
Now 39, he is one of the senior players on the Tour with 12 years' experience. But Dalhausser also says time is starting to catch up with him: "I'm not jumping as high as I used to ... there's hits that I would've gone for that now I probably wouldn't." Red Bull
But he's not considering retirement just yet. Asked about the prospects of competing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, he says: "I feel like I'm playing pretty good volleyball right now. If I can keep that level through the next few years I don't see why not." He admits, however, that he has to balance the rigorous demands of professional volleyball against family life. Harry How/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
With 10 heated matches, this season's beach volleyball curtain-raiser on the Florida coast promises to be hugely entertaining. It's aired live on Red Bull TV on Saturday Feb. 11 at 1900 GMT (1400 ET) and Sunday Feb. 12 at 2130 GMT (1430 ET). Daniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool