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In 2007 and 2008, Paolo won the FIVB Youth Beach Volleyball World Championships (with Francesco Giontella). Nicolai-Giontella have been the unique couple succeeding in two consecutive YWC. As a result of his outstanding performance in the 2008 World Championships in Brighton, Paolo was nominated MVP of the competition and awarded as 'Best Blocker' of the event.
In January 2009 the adventure with Francesco came to an end and Matteo Varnier was chosen by the FIPAV to pursue, together with Paolo, the qualification for London 2012. Paolo and Matteo immediately reached an impressive 5th place in the Rome Grand Slam in 2009 and the tile of Italian Champion 2009. Unfortunately, due to repeated injuries occurred to Varnier's right shoulder, Paolo was forced to play with several different teammates in 2010. Matteo Martino, well-known indoor Serie A1 player, joined Paolo's campaign for the Olympics in 2011 . At their second appearance in the 2011 season, the Swatch FIVB World Championships 2011 in Rome, they obtained a surprising 9th place. After several unsatisfactory results of the couple Martino-Nicolai, Michael Dodd, former silver-medalist in Atlanta 1996, after taking over Dionisio Lequaglie as coach of the Italian National Team, decided to bet on the youngster Daniele Lupo as new Paolo's teammate. The new team showed immediately a great potential, as much that Paolo and Daniele were steadily among the top 10 pairs of the World Tour in 2011. The new Italian pair reached its peak result with the 5th place in the FIVB World Tour in The Hague. The Swatch FIVB 2012 World Tour started with a satisfactory 17th place in the Brasília Open, and an outstanding 4th place in the Silesia Open (Poland), followed by an astonishing 2nd place in the Beijing Grand Slam and a 3rd place in the Gstaad Grand Slam. As a consequence, Paolo and Daniele reached the all-desired qualification to London 2012.
Nicolai-Lupo were included in Pool A, facing the World Champions Emanuel-Alison, the Swiss Bellaguarda-Heuscher and the Austrian Doppler-Horst. After the unforeseen success (2-0) against the Austrian team, two losses--both by 2-0--against Bellaguarda-Heuscher and Emanuel-Alison. In order to access the round of 16, Paolo and Daniele had to play an additional match against the Canadian team Binstock-Reader. The Italians won by 2-0, earning the chance to challenge the former Olympic Champions Dalhausser-Rogers.
The match was dominated by Paolo and Daniele (2-0) with an impressive performance. On the 6th of August, Paolo had the chance to celebrate his birthday with a special gift: the olympic semifinal. Unfortunately, the cold-blooded pair who defeated the olympic champions turned into a young and promising team in the quarterfinals, relentlessly overwhelmed by the experience of the Dutch team Nummerdor-Schuil (2-0).
FIVB Most Improved Player 2012
Paolo's and Daniele's dream faded away in a cold and rainy night in the Horse Guards Parade. However, Paolo's performance did not pass by unnoticed under the eyes of coaches and colleagues, who elected him FIVB Most Improved Player 2012.
FIVB World Tour and FIVB Opens 2013
The 2013 season started with a promising silver medal in the FIVB Fuzhou Open. Paolo and Daniele's performance in the first Grand Slam of the season, however, did not match up with their great opening: they classified 9th in the FIVB Shanghai Grand Slam. The Italians redeemed themselves in the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam, where they secured a bronze medal.
Honours and awards
- 2006: Silver Medal in FIVB u-19 World Championships
- 2007: Bronze Medal in the CEV Youth European Championships
- 2007: Gold Medal in the FIVB Youth World Championships
- 2008: Gold Medal in the FIVB Youth World Championships
- Best Blocker of the 2008 YWC
- MVP of the 2008 YWC
- 2009: Italian Champion
- 2012: 2nd place FIVB Beijing Grand Slam
- 2012: 3rd place FIVB Gstaad Grand Slam
- 2012: 5th place Olympic Games London
- 2012: FIVB Most Improved Player
- 2013: 2nd place Fuzhou FIVB Open
- 2013: 3rd Corrientes FIVB Grand Slam
- 2013: 3rd Long Beach FIVB Grand Slam
- 2013: 4th CEV European Beach Volleyball Championship.
Jānis Šmēdiņš (LAT)
|Men's FIVB World Tour "Best Attacker"
Mariusz Prudel (POL)
|Men's FIVB World Tour "Most Improved"
Álvaro Morais Filho (BRA)