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Beach Volleyball - 22. February 2013.

Vanuatu girls in Adelaide to begin road to Rio

Having narrowly missed out on a spot at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Vanuatu’s Miller Elwin and Henriette Iatika are about to take the first steps in what they hope will culminate in a place at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

The pair were semifinalists in the fifth leg of the Australian National Beach Volleyball Series which finished on Sunday in Adelaide. They only missed out on a place in the London Olympics after losing to China in the quarterfinals of the Confederation Cup and the aim is now to build on their current form to ensure they compete on Copacabana Beach, where the beach volleyball will be played in 2016.

“We cracked the top 10 last year with our best results and we’ve just got a silver medal podium finish in Asia,” their coach Lauren McLeod told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio. “The girls have come a long way from about 350th since 2009 and now they’re up there with the best of the best.”

This year the overriding aim for the pair is to qualify for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships that will take place in Stare Jablonki, Poland from July 1 to 7. They will begin their season in China, at the Beijing and Shanghai Grand Slams before eventually following the Tour to Europe.

In 2012 the duo took part in the Grand Slams in Rome, Beijing and Shanghai as well as the Open events in Sanya, Brasilia and Bangsaen, where they recorded their best result of the season with a ninth-place finish. Off the World Tour the pair enjoyed gold medal-success in Seoul where they won a Women’s Challenger tournament.

Key to the 24-year-old Elwin and 27-year-old Iatika achieving their aims is increasingly the level of sponsorship they receive. McLeod estimates that it costs them AUS$10,000 to take part in a tournament, though she is confident that they will find ways to finance their pursuit of glory.

“The goal for this year is the World Championships in July,” McLeod added. “We are looking to raise enough funds and really become competitive in the world. It would be the first time Vanuatu would have a team in the World Championships.

“We’ve come back to the drawing board this year and now we are looking to start up again and source some new sponsors and really push the program forward with the World Championships and the future goal of getting the girls to Rio.”
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photos Janos Schmidt 

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