Long road to Games glory begins this weekend


THE LONG ROAD TO GAMES GLORY STARTS THIS WEEKEND

Two of Australia’s leading men’s beach volleyballers are determined to leave no stone unturned in their quest to qualify for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Damien Schumann and Josh Court have decided to leave family and friends in Melbourne to relocate to Volleyball Australia’s High Performance beach volleyball program in Adelaide.

“We will improve much quicker in Adelaide, and we are really excited to be working with the other national team players and coaches,” Schumann said.

If the pair are successful it would be a significant milestone for both events; 2018 on the Gold Coast will mark the debut of beach volleyball at a Commonwealth Games, while qualifying for Tokyo would end a run of two Olympics without an Australian men’s team participating.

Court and Schumann dominated the domestic 2015/16 summer, winning every state and national title, but were left disappointed after missing Olympic qualification.

This weekend the pair will play their first competition of this season when they step out for the SA Open at Glenelg Beach.

Court missed last month’s NSW Open, which was won by fellow Adelaide-based team, Cole Durant and Zachary Schubert.

Durant and Schubert are expected to be the main competition to Court and Schumann this weekend, although Schumann concedes the move west to Adelaide has been a distraction.

But he said this weekend is just the start of a long year.

“We’ve had a fair bit of time on the sand together recently, but not as much as we’d like leading up with organising, moving and packing everything up,” he said.

“We are going to be playing the World Tour events in America and Iran and Shepparton and don’t know exactly after that, but we both want to play as much as we can in this new cycle.

“We’re just trying to get our lives sorted in our new home.”

Three-time Olympian Louise Bawden will team up with Rio 2016 debutant, Nikki Laird, in the women’s draw, while 2012 Olympian Becchara Palmer will play with promising 20-year-old, Phoebe Bell.

Laird’s 2016b Olympic partner, Mariafe Artacho del Solar, will play alongside Thailand’s Yupa Phokongploy.

The SA Open will be played on Saturday and Sunday.