Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2017 - Australia will make beach volleyball history next year, when as host country of the Commonwealth Games the sport will make its official debut.
It's focusing the mind of the country’s elite athletes, with room only for one men's and one women's team in the multi-sport event.
Many of the other teams competing at the FIVB World Tour event in Sydney this weekend also have eyes on the Gold Coast next year, including Scotland, New Zealand, Canada, England and Vanuatu.Loti Joe of Vanuatu sets the ball at Manly Beach.
It's also making for an intriguing contest every time Australian teams come up against each other, as was the case on Saturday when four teams went head-to-head in the World Tour quarterfinals.
Bragging rights on this occasion went to 2016 Olympian, Mariafe Artacho del Solar, and her partner, Jessyka Ngauamo, who beat 2012 Olympian, Becchara Palmer, and Youth Olympic Games athlete, Phoebe Bell, 2-1.
In the other match three-time Olympian, Louise Bawden, and 2016 Olympian, Nikki Laird, overcame Manly's own Alice and Johannah Rohkamper, 2-1. The Rohkampers only play local events these days, and Bawden is expected to be re-united with 2016 Olympic partner, Taliqua Clancy, when she returns from injury next month.
Bawden and Clancy are the form Australian team, and one year out from the Commonwealth Games are the front runners for selection.
But behind them the field is very tight, a fact acknowledged by del Solar after Saturday's win.
"It's so good that there are so many Aussie teams out there, it makes us all better," she said.
"Having so many strong teams can only do good for our country."
"We always knew it was going to be a grind against those girls, we train with each other every single day," Ngauamo said.
"We know each other’s tendencies, so we knew it was going to be whoever stayed patient the longest."
Canada's Julie Gordon and Camille Saxton also have Gold Coast 2018 marked in their calendar, and their perfect record so far in two World Tour events in Australia has given them a good start in the qualifying race.Camille Saxton of Canada poised for the block at Manly Beach.
"It would be amazing to represent Canada at the Commonwealth Games," Saxton said.
"We would love to do that, but right now it’s pretty far away, so we’d just like to take it one game at a time."Quick links - Beach volleyball:
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