Beach Volleyball wrap up

10 August 2012

BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Natalie Cook, beach volleyball royalty in Australia, has wound up her glittering Olympic career on the doorstep of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Horse Guards Parade.

Unfortunately for Cook and her partner Tamsin Hinchley, and the other Australian pairing of Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden, there were no regal results to compliment the setting – the Aussies coming away from London with six losses from as many games.

Cook won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, four years after she won bronze on debut in Atlanta, and this – her fifth Olympics - was always going to be her last hurrah. 

The tournament got off to a tough start for Cook and Hinchley when they went down in straight sets to two-time defending title holders and eventual London champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh in their opening match on Day 1. They followed that up with a two sets to one loss to Austrian sisters Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger and a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Czech pair Kristyna Kolocova and Marketa Slukova.

Three losses obviously wasn’t the way Cook wanted to wind up her career but she said it was now time to move on for the “faster, stronger, younger” athletes coming through.

“In trying to stay at the top of the game for the past 20 years the biggest break I’ve had is 18 months after Beijing (Olympic Games in 2008),” Cook said.

“My mind and body needs a rest, and it’s not a rest I’ll be coming back from. Playing at this level requires three to five hours preparation physically a day, and you get a day off if you’re lucky.

“There’s no reason to relax in this environment of trying to be the best in the world and it takes an enormous amount of emotional strength, which I don’t think I can sustain any more.”

Palmer and Louise Bawden opened with a tight 2-1 loss to Germans Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig before falling 2-0 to Dutch duo Madelein Meppelink and Sophie van Gestel and finally 2-1 to Brazil’s Talita Rocha and Maria Antonelli.

Bawden believed the biggest opportunity for improvement for Australia was in consistent top level competition.

“We really need to increase the periods of time that we put our opponents under pressure,” Bawden said. 

“We can cope for two or three points and then we release that pressure. This has cost us progress in this tournament.

“We need to play the top 10 teams in the world continually in order to really improve our game as a partnership.

“We are going to have to go back and reassess how we approach these type of arenas. The teams that are putting themselves out there day in, day out are the ones able to stay strong.”

Dave Lyall in London

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