Olympic hopefuls look to make their mark on Cook Islands



Even though there’s nothing riding on this week’s Oceania Olympic qualification tournament in the Cook Islands for Australia, four teams who are hoping to make it to Rio next year are looking to make a statement.

The Cook Islands event acts as a qualifier for the Asian Olympic qualifiers next year, but as host nation Australia will be guaranteed starts.

Four Australian teams, two men and two women, are competing at Raratonga, including Australia’s world U23 champions, Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar.

“This tournament is the best opportunity to prepare for the Asian Continental Cup in June next year, as its the only other time we'll play a tournament of the same style,” Laird said.

“We're going into it with the same approach we'd look to take in the final tournament, so we can see what areas we still need the most improvement in to be successful when it really counts.”

Australia’s top-rated women’s team of Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy are practically guaranteed a Rio position because of their current world ranking, throwing the race wide open for a potential second Australian team.

2012 Olympian, Becchara Palmer, who played with Bawden in London, is playing with Queensland’s Jordan Mowen in Raratonga.

“I think that although we are still a fairly new pairing, we made some good progress on the Asian Tour so we would like to build on from that,” Mowen said.

“It is also a very new but exciting experience to be playing as a "big" team with the other girls, so we would like to contribute our best performance so we can all reap the benefits.”

In the men’s competition, former Danish international Bo Soderberg and Perth’s Cole Durant will be looking to build on their exciting early results since coming together as a pair in recent months.

“It's a really cool format because it's not just about me or my team, it's about the greater Australian team and the whole sport of beach volleyball in Australia,” Durant said.

“Earning an Olympic spot is very important for our sport’s future, and of course winning this tournament puts us in the best position to win the golden ticket in June.

“I feel a bigger sense of selflessness or responsibility to perform well for our country but still just excited to compete against quality opposition in an amazing country. I'm looking forward to just stepping on court, battling it out and hopefully representing Australia with pride.”

Australia’s second men’s team, Melbourne-based Joshua Court and Damien Schumann, will be looking to build on some reasonable recent results in Indonesia and Turkey.

The Australian teams begin their Oceania campaigns on Wednesday, Australian time.




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Schwartz family join Volleyball Australia team


Jerry Schwartz aims to revive Sydney 2000 spirit with partnership of Australian Volleyball.

13 October 2015: Tourism and hospitality entrepreneur, Dr Jerry Schwartz, announced today that the Schwartz Family Company would become a major sponsor of Volleyball Australia as the sport attempts to revive the highs achieved during the 2000 Olympics.

The sponsorship was announced today at Parliament House, with NSW Premier Mike Baird welcoming Dr Schwartz's support for the sport as it gears up to challenge for gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Dr Schwartz, who is Australia's largest private owner of hotels in Australia, is already a major sporting supporter, keen philanthropist and supporter of charities across the State.

The sponsorship will cover all aspects of volleyball - indoor and beach volleyball, women's, men's and junior.

He joins other major partners of the sport including Mrs Gina Rinehart and Bendon Lingerie manufacturer, Eric Watson.

"Who can forget the impact our women's beach volleyball team made to the success of Sydney's Olympic Games in 2000?" said Dr Schwartz.

"The tournament captured everything that is good about Sydney and as we head down the road to Rio, we need to recapture that spirit and vitality. A successful competition on the sand in Rio will be an enormous advertisement for Australia's beach and sporting culture.

"Our beach volleyball team is ranked in the top 5 in the world, and with extra resources we can get back to our gold status.

"In particular, this support will boost women's sport. So much sporting investment favours traditionally male sports, whereas volleyball has a strong focus on women and girls, and they deserve greater support."

Volleyball Australia President, Craig Carracher, said the generous support of the Schwartz Family Company comes at an exciting time for the sport in Australia.

“Our beach teams, and our women in particular, are currently among the best in the world, while our men’s indoor team is on the verge of an exciting Rio qualifying campaign,” Mr Carracher said.

“Our women’s indoor program has been re-launched after years of little government funding, and we have some of the biggest junior sports programs in Australia.

“None of this is possible without the support of people like Dr Jerry Schwartz. It is fantastic to have someone with his vision and generosity on board.”

Volleyball Australia Chief Commercial Officer, Rod Harys, said Australian businesses were recognising what the sport has to offer.

“Volleyball is the most gender equal sport in the world, it is one of the most popular sports in the world, and whether it is indoor or beach, it is a thrilling sport to watch,” Mr Harys said.

“Having the support of sponsors of the calibre of the Schwartz Family Company, Mrs Gina Rinehart and Bendon, and the recent signing of Three Threes Condiments, Mightymite, Hope Estate Wines, Sunland, Mitronics and Sails Restaurant Group underlines that this is a sport going forward.

“And that will be further exemplified on the sand of Copacabana Beach and in a Maracana stadium next year. It is an exciting time for beach and indoor volleyball.”


Australia defend 01

Volleyball Australia is committed to providing opportunities for people with a disability in the form of three key disciplines: Sitting Volleyball, Standing Beach Volleyball and Deaf Volleyball, all of which offer competition opportunities at the local, national and international levels.

The term “D-Volleyball” is used only in Australia to refer to the three disciplines of Sitting Volleyball, Standing Beach Volleyball and Deaf Volleyball.  It is an abbreviation of “Disabled Volleyball”.


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