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 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.

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

GOOD SIGNS FOR VOLLEYROOS DESPITE 3-1 LOSS TO CROATIA

Australian women’s volleyball coach Shannon Winzer encouraged her team to continue being aggressive after its 3-1 loss to Croatia in a warm-up match in Dandenong on Friday night.

Winzer said there was plenty to be excited about one week out from the World Grand Prix in Bendigo.

“It was a really good start,” Winzer said.

“We said we were always going to play aggressive, and when we did that we were successful. When we went back to playing safe, we struggled, so that’s good.”

The highlight of the night was Australia’s incredible comeback in the third set, when the helloworld Volleyroos saved five match points to take the set 26-24.

“It’s definitely a work in progress, but this was a great starting point. Our passing struggled a bit in all the sets. But the best thing was we were able to come back against a top side.

“We kept fighting and never gave up.”

Australia will take on Croatia, Cuba and Colombia at next week’s Grand Prix, and captain Shae Sloane said

“It’s a very exciting team, it’s a very young and aggressive team,’ Sloane said.

“We want to win a World Grand Prix game and we want to stay competitive. We’ve got a lot to learn from tonight’s game. But last year we struggled to adjust quickly, I think we’ve managed to get that this year.”

Croatia beat Australia 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 24-26, 25-19)

AUSTRALIA READY FOR FINAL TILT AT RIO

By any measure Australian volleyballer Paul Carroll has had a pretty satisfying past 12 months.

He’s become a dad for the first time, reached the significant milestone of turning 30, and his Berlin Volleyball Club, his adopted home for the best part of the past decade, has swept all before them both domestically and throughout Europe.

But there’s one part of the jigsaw that is still missing – a ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games. While several of his teammates played in London four years ago, Carroll missed out.

This time round he’s probably the most determined player on the team.

This weekend Carroll and his helloworld Volleyroos teammates begin the final trek to Rio, an Asian qualifying tournament in Tokyo that has also drawn world heavyweights like Poland and France.

Australia’s task is straight forward; finish as the best Asian team, and the ticket is theirs.

It may be straight forward, but it’s not simple. Iran is there, so are China and Japan. Four tickets are up for grabs, and at least one has to go to one of the Asian teams.

The team has been together for a couple of weeks in Italy preparing. It makes a lot of sense, as nearly the entire Australian squad plays for clubs around Europe.

“Everyone’s pretty amped up. I think we’re pretty confident going into Japan,” Carroll said.

“It’s coming together reasonably quick. We still need to improve to get to the level we want to get to, but we are right on track.

“It’s seven matches in nine days, but we have a team that has guys who can come in off the bench. And we are all in great physical shape.”

While Australia’s form in the past 12 months has lacked consistency, the team has a significant in for this Olympic campaign – former captain, Aidan Zingel.

Zingel sat out last year, but has re-joined the team and Carroll believes he will make a significant difference.

“Zingel is going to be a massive advantage for us,” he said.

“He’s a world class middle with an incredible amount of experience. He’s so constant at such a high level, and such a great role model for the younger middles.

“He’s the kind of player who makes everyone around him a lot better.”

Australia opens its campaign against Iran on Saturday. The result could go a long way towards determining which Asian team will finish on top, but Carroll said the team does not want to focus too much on that game.

“I think the best things for us to do is treat every match the same,” he said.

“If we put too much weight on a single match, and if that match doesn’t go to plan, we have to back up the next day.

“But we did beat Iran comfortably last year, 3-0 in the World Cup.”

Australia’s games will all be shown live on Fox Sports.