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Ross and Walsh "know exactly what is required" - Natalie Cook
Australian beach volleyball legend Natalie Cook looks back at the World Tour's first stop this year at the Fuzhou Open and tells FIVB.org what she expects from the season to come in the first blog of the season.
“It was great to see many of beach volleyball’s star names come out to play at the Fuzhou Open, the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour opener.”
“The crowds came out to watch and gave those returning after the off-season that chance to get straight back into competing on the World Tour, which is a step up from continental and domestic tours.”
“I can’t say I was surprised that April Ross and Kerri Walsh won gold and topped the podium; both players know exactly what is required to finish first in competitions and have the uncanny ability to turn around impossible situations to win.”
“They gave us all a taste of what was to come at the end of 2013 when they won the Sao Paulo and Xiamen Grand Slams and have now laid down a marker to the rest of the competition of what to expect this season and through to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.”
“Their serve and defence game is highly effective and well-tuned, so will stand them in good stead as the season progresses.”
“I was also delighted to see the return of Juliana Felisberta after she missed the 2013 season. Her partnership with Maria Antonelli has real potential as they showed by winning the silver medals. Like Ross and Walsh, the Brazilian pair know what it takes to win tournaments and finish on the podium.”
“There is real depth to Brazil’s teams and over the next 18 months the competition to earn one of the two places at Rio 2016 will be fierce.”
“World champion Chen Xue and her new partner Xia Xinyi made a great start and gave the home crowd something to cheer by winning the bronze medals and it was interesting to see how they carried on their development after teaming up towards the end of 2013.”
“What most teams want from the first tournament of the year is to build some momentum and develop some rhythm. To that end the Dutch, Italian and German teams will all be satisfied with how they went there and look ahead with confidence to the rest of the year.”
“With the Shanghai Grand Slam about to start there will be a few more teams making their season debuts.”
“I am particularly looking forward to how Australia’s number one team Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy get on, while Germans Karla Borger and Britta Buthe and Ilka Semmler and Katrin Holtwick and USA’s Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat and April Ross and Emily Day are others who will be out to make a strong opening statement.”
Natalie Cook became the first Australian woman to participate in five successive Olympic Games and is the only woman to play in all five Olympic beach volleyball events. After making her debut on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 1993, Cook went on to win a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics and 2000 Olympic gold with Kerri Pottharst, before finishing fourth in Athens, fifth in Beijing and retiring after a 19th-place finish at the London Olympics. She is now running her own company Sandstorm which runs Oz Volley and Surf Volley programs, whilst ensuring new beach volleyball courts are being built off the beach to support the demand and the growth of beach volleyball.