The future is looking bright for Nikki Laird and Becchara Palmer in the wake of their gold medal winning performance in the 3-Star Beach Volleyball World Tour event at Manly Beach.
Nikki Laird and Becchara Palmer’s victory in the 3-Star event at Manly Beach has shaken up the Beach Volleyball World Tour. Their stirring victory over the American pair of Betsi Flint and Emily Day in front of their home crowd at Manly had the hallmarks of a Disney fairy-tale.
Bec had almost given up the sport two years ago while Nikki battled injury following the Rio Olympics in 2016. Nikki was looking for a playing partner and Bec was coaching beach volleyball after a stint in AFLW, and by her own admission didn’t have aspirations to play beach Volleyball again. That changed during a chance meeting at a hen’s party in November last year. Nikki asked Bec if she was interested in playing together, and from that moment on there was no turning back.
There were hurdles to overcome, including the fact that both lived in different cities: Bec in Sydney and Nikki in Adelaide. Usually it’s a pre-requisite for success to be training alongside each other day-in day-out.
Bec said it wasn’t seen as a disadvantage by either player, ”I live on the Northern Beaches, Nikki is based in Adelaide. The thing that we are really strongly committed really strongly to is to make sure, individually as athletes, we are the best we can possibly be and then coming out and enjoying it. We don’t necessarily have to be in the same state to enjoy ourselves when we are together and I think that is the ‘X’ factor; that’s the difference.”
Just over 12 weeks after committing to playing together, in only their second FIVB World Tour event together, they had to come through qualifying to make the main draw at Manly.
When they made it through Bec said the first part of the plan had been realised, ”I was really stoked on Wednesday. Thank God we’ve qualified! We’re in the draw. Let’s go and see what we can do. And we chose to take it one game at a time and we wanted to test our game against the best teams in the world.”
As the tournament progressed, they became an unstoppable force. This included powering through a semi against an American team, which included the three times Olympic Gold medallist, Kerri Walsh-Jennings.
The gold medal game against Flint and Day developed a life of its own. It went to a deciding game, before Laird and Palmer emerged victorious, against the backdrop of a delirious, sell-out home crowd, and the surf of Manly Beach.
For Nikki Laird, there was a surreal feeling in the aftermath, ”As surprised as I am, I’m also not that surprised, because I knew as a team we could go on and do some pretty amazing things. And we have been talking like that for the past three and a half months. We’ve been waiting for the opportunity to do it. This is just the beginning for us.”
Which raises the question: Where to next for this partnership?
“It changes our financial position,” said Laird before adding, “it’s been pretty tricky getting into events because neither of us had particularly many points, so this opens up a lot of doors for us. We can now go and branch out with our competition opportunities moving forward and go and hit this year hard and see what is possible.”
With 2020 being an Olympic year, it would appear as though anything is possible based on their remarkable week at Manly Beach with 15 games in eight days.