Bawden and Clancy are off to Rio

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Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy have today been officially named to represent Australia in beach volleyball at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Selection is another important step in their master plan of winning a medal on the famous Copacabana Beach.

Clancy, 23, will become Australia’s first Indigenous Olympian in the sport and Bawden, 34, is off to her third Games, 16 years after her first. The pair joined forces after the London Olympics and have continued to improve and now consistently challenge the top teams in the world.

The pair finished the 15-month qualification period seeded seventh on Olympic adjusted rankings, to easily secure the most direct way to the Games amongst the top 15 teams.

Both athletes are proud to have secured Olympic selection and to be seeded near the top of the field, but it is just the start of their Rio plans.

“Selection is very exciting and I feel very fortunate to be going to a third Games but the job is not done,” Bawden, who played indoor volleyball at Sydney 2000 and beach with Becchara Palmer at London 2012, said.

“Seeded seventh is a good position to be in, but we are always wanting more. We are doing everything possible to produce our strongest performances and win an Olympic medal on the beach in Rio.”

The Adelaide-based pair had match points against the world champions from Brazil in Hamburg last week before finishing fifth, providing more motivation for the final weeks of their preparation.

Clancy hopes her hard work and rise from top junior to making her first Olympic team will motivate other Indigenous athletes to follow in her footsteps.

“I’m really proud of it (selection),” Clancy said. “I’m starting to realise how special it is for me and my culture. I hope I can inspire people to dream and do things that haven’t been done before.

“My family are really happy for me. They don’t get too over excited but they are pretty proud.”

Clancy left her hometown of Kingaroy in Queensland - which is 200km inland from the nearest beach – aged 16, and was soon part of the Australian beach volleyball program in Adelaide. She was part of the Continental Cup team format that helped Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley secure their place at London 2012.

Clancy has not been back home to Kingaroy for quite a while but she is looking forward to going back there after the Games.

“I don’t get home too much but my grandparents keep me updated on what is happening and I’m looking forward to going back for a visit after the Games.”

Her grandparents won’t make the trip to Rio but the rest of her direct family, and some friends who are already travelling, will be sitting in the stands cheering on the Aussies at Copacabana Beach.

Bawden’s longevity in the sport is remarkable and she has enjoyed assuming the senior role as they continue to improve. One of their targets is ‘continual growth’ and personally Bawden is ‘really loving it and still finding areas to improve.’

The pair travel back to Europe on Friday for more tournaments in Croatia and Switzerland. The Major Series event in Gstaad is where the make-up of the four teams in each of the six pools will be known.

Australia can qualify one more women’s team and a men’s team for Rio through the cut-throat Asia- Pacific Continental Cup Final being held on the Esplanade in Cairns this week. The top men’s and women’s team at the tournament will book their spot in Rio, while the second and third placed teams get one last shot in Russia next month.

The Continental Cup process started back in early 2015 and Bawden is feeling for her teammates.

“We are sending good vibes to the Teams up in Cairns. T (Taliqua) was part of it for London and it is an incredibly high pressure event. The pairs are supporting each other well and are feeling positive.”

Three-time Asian Champions Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa will look to assert their dominance. The second Australian team will be Joshua Court and Damien Schumann.

Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar were second behind a strong Chinese Team at the recent Asian Championships on Manly Beach and they’ll be looking to turn the tables in Cairns. 2012 Olympian Becchara Palmer and former Australian indoor player, Phoebe Bell, will make up the second team.    

The selection of Bawden and Clancy takes the number of athletes on the 2016 Olympic Team so far to 189 from 19 sports, with an expected final team of around 400 athletes.

Italy stares down plucky Volleyroos

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ITALY STARES DOWN AUSTRALIAN CHALLENGE

Australian volleyball coach Roberto Santilli believes his team can still match the top teams in the world, despite losing all three matches on the opening weekend of World League in Sydney.

The helloworld Volleyroos showed improvement despite losing 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-20) to Italy on Sunday afternoon.

The team has been without captain Tom Edgar (abdomen) and middle blocker Nehemiah Mote (knee) over the weekend, and will also lose former captain Aidan Zingel (ankle) for next weekend’s fixtures in Rome.

Australia were beaten 3-0 by Belgium after controlling most of the opening set on Friday night, but were then soundly beaten by current World League champions, France, on Saturday night.

On Sunday Santilli promoted 22-year-old Jordan Richards to the starting line-up, and he responded with a powerful display of serving, blocking and spiking to lead the scoring for the Volleyroos with 15 points.

“I think we played much better than the first and second day,” Santilli said.

“We put some young guys out there, and Richards and (Harry) Peacock played well.

“Even if we play well, at the important moment we always make a mistake. It is through experience mainly.”

Captain Greg Sukochev said despite the injuries the team was on the improve.

“We matched it with them for almost the entire game,” he said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t take away any sets, but point-for-point it was a real battle. The stepping stones are there, we just have to take the steps.”

Australia will get a chance of revenge against Italy and Belgium next weekend, as well as USA, before heading to Dallas for the final weekend of World League.

Statement from Volleyball Australia on passing of Georgie Rowe

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Volleyball Australia is deeply saddened to announce the passing of Volleyroo Georgie Rowe, a valued member of the Australian women’s volleyball team and the wider volleyball community.

The Australian men’s volleyball team will observe a one minute silence before Sunday’s World League match against Italy as a mark of respect for the life of Georgie Rowe, a tremendous friend and teammate of many in Australian volleyball.

The following is a statement from Georgie’s family.

It is with great sadness and loss that Georgie Rowe passed away on Saturday June 18 following a severe car accident.

Georgie's passion was Volleyball and she achieved success at all levels including playing for the Australian Women's Volleyball team. Her family has been overwhelmed with support from so many people, not the least being the Volleyball community. She was so driven and determined and had a presence on the court, whilst having a kind and quiet personality.

 

She inspired so many and will be greatly missed.

 

Peter, Fiona and Tom Rowe

Having reaped two qualification victories on Wednesday to make the 32-team Main Draw, the 31st-seeded Artacho/Laird continued their winning momentum by defeating Germany’s second seeds Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) in the morning and Czech Republic’s 15th seeds Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova 2-0 (21-16, 24-22) in the afternoon.

“Cool! It feels pretty unbelievable! Our first season, our first Grand Slam, come as qualifiers, it feels pretty unreal,” said Artacho.

The second set of the second round match between Artacho/Laird and Kolocova/Slukova was hotly contested and the Australians withstood two set points to level it at 20-all thanks to a Artacho block against Kolocova. After Artacho beat off the fourth set point of the Czech Republic with another block, an error of Slukova during a long rally awarded Artacho/Laird their first match point and Artacho converted on it with an accurate drop shot.

“It feels pretty unreal, but we came back in the second set. We just stuck together for every point and believed in each other and we can do it,” Artacho added. “I think that the most important thing is to believe in ourselves and say: we can do it, it's possible.”

Laird attributed the surprising wins to their concentration. “It’s our first Grand Slam and it's all a bit overwhelming. So breaking everything down, making it a lit bit smaller, a little bit simpler,” she said. “In the game just play our ball. Last point doesn't matter, the next point doesn't matter, and it’s all about what's happening in that one moment.”

Having secured their berth in the 24-team knock-out stage, Artacho/Laird now put their eyes on the last match and the top place of the pool.

“We always go one step at a time, even breaking the game down, thinking nothing, just one game at a time has helped us come this far,” Artacho said. “We still haven’t finish pool match, so our next goal is to finish atop of our pool. Being that our last game today, we can now switch off, relax and get ready for tomorrow's games.”

Home favorites Xue/Xia also had a fine start on Thursday as they swept Kazakhstan’s Tatyana Mashkova/Irina Tsimbalova 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) before beating Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina 2-0 (21-19, 21-19).

“We were satisfied with our play today,“ said Xue, who paired with Xia to take the bronze medal at last week’s season-opening Fuzhou Open. “My partner is very young and we have a lot to improve together, so every match is a good test and challenge for us.“

It’s also the first Grand Slam event for the newly formed Chinese combination and they vowed to do as best as they. “It’s important for us to get more points and this Grand Slam is a great opportunity, we’ll do the best we can,“ Xue added.

Other top teams winning two matches in a row include Walsh/Ross of the United States, Juliana/Antonelli, Talita Antunes/Taiana Lima, Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas De Freitas from Brazil and Germany’s Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler.

Thirty-two teams are playing a single round robin in eight groups with top three finishers from each group to advance to the 24-team knockout stage.

The 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar features a record purse of US$10.2 million with a season that extends from late April to mid-December competing at 21 venues in 18 countries. This year’s FIVB World Tour includes a record 10 FIVB Grand Slam events, the inaugural Grand Slam Finale and 11 FIVB Open Tournaments throughout the world, helping expand the door for development of the sport even further.

The 10 FIVB Grand Slam competitions, all double-gender, have eight with $800,000 in total purses while both The Hague, Netherlands and the Long Beach, Calif., USA event will have $1 million each in prize money, the most in FIVB Grand Slam history.

 

 

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