AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S BEACH TEAMS WINNING WAYS IN SHANGHAI
May 3, 2012
Australia’s London Olympic beach volleyball hopefuls Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden and Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley will be hoping to maintain their unbeaten run going into the second day of the Shanghai Grand Slam today on the FIVB Swatch World Tour.
The AIS Adelaide-based pair, of Palmer and Bawden, fifth in last week’s Olympic Bay Sanya Open in China’s Hainan Province and ninth in the Brasilia Open, opened their account with impressive wins in yesterday’s opening pool matches.
Australia’s number one ranked team on FIVB World Tour started out with a hard fought two sets to one win over German pair Jana Kohler and Julia Sude, with Palmer and Bawden taking the first set 24-22, losing the second 16-21, before wrapping up the opening pool match with a 15-9 third set decider.
They then took just 37 minutes to account for Italian pair Gioria Giombini and Giulia Momoli in straight sets 21-14, 21-10.
But things will get tougher today with the Australian girls scheduled to play dual Olympic champions from Athens and Beijing, US pair Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor in today’s remaining pool match.
Their outstanding fifth place in the Sanya Open has seen the pair maintain their 15th position on the Olympic rankings.
Meanwhile, Australia’s experienced Olympic duo Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley, currently ranked 23rd on the Olympic rankings also had a field day, notching two wins, first up against Chinese pair Changning Zhang and Yuanyuan Ma before accounting for 2011 Shanghai Grand Slam winners, Dutch pair Sanne Keizer and Marleen Van Iersel.
Cook and Hinchley showed all their fighting spirit to comeback from one set down on both occasions to win in three sets, 15-21, 21-14 and 15-13 against the Chinese and 24-26, 22-20 and 15-13 in one of the longest matches of the day against the Netherlands girls – a match that took over an hour.
Cook, the Sydney 2000 gold medallist and four-time Olympian said: “I haven’t done that for a long time, so to win two games in a day is unbelievable. We’ve had a struggle the last two weeks and we need some points.”
Cook and Hinchley needed to be at their best against the Dutch pair, who were desperate for a win after they had lost to Germany’s Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler.
According to Cook, the fact that the 2011 winners are now struggling to progress from the pool stages, shows how much women’s beach volleyball has grown in recent years.
“The level on the tour is now unbelievable and you never want to drop into the qualifiers,” Cook said. “I’ve been there for the last two years and now we’ve got out of it we’ve got to stay there.
Cook and Hinchley will be pushing hard for a top 16 rankings position with the option of the Continental Cup qualification pathway.
The 16 highest ranked countries (two per nation) in the Olympic Ranking as of June 18, 2012 will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games. (The Olympic Ranking takes into account the results on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour from January 1, 2011 to June 17, 2012.)
The remaining places in the 24-team draw (not including hosts Great Britain) will be decided in the various zonal qualification tournaments.
Australia is one of three Oceania countries who will be vying for places in the women’s and men’s competitions through the AVC Continental Cup (Final phase) from June 18 to 24, with the winning country claiming a place for London.
The final chance to make the Olympic cut will come for those second and third placed countries at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Cup Olympic Qualification tournament from June 25 to July 1, when the final London place will be decided.
The teams participating at the Olympic Games will be confirmed by the respective National Olympic Committees on July 9.