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Bawden and Palmer get confidence spike for London
Three Olympians walked away from the sand with medals at the Australian Beach Volleyball Championships in Holdfast Bay, Adelaide on Sunday.
Olympians Natalie Cook, Tamsin Hinchley (Barnett) and Louise Bawden were on opposite sides of the net with their three respective partners – all gunning for an edge ahead of an international season crucial to qualifying for the London Olympic Games in 2012. The maximum number of teams a nation can qualify for is two.
Add in former junior world champions Becchara Palmer and Alice Rohkamper plus Australian volleyball captain Tara West and you have six sensational athletes.
In an international-level final, former teammates Palmer and Rohkamper faced-off on opposite sides of the net. The girls now play with Sydney 2000 volleyball teammates Bawden and Hinchely. Hinchely played with Cook on the sand at Beijing 2008.
The number two seeds Hinchley and Rohkamper raced out to an early 15-6 lead in the opener. Led by an unstoppable Rohkamper serve and supported by Hinchley’s excellent blocking, they claimed the first set 21-15.
As the second set began Bawden and Palmer were threatening a comeback like rain from the dark clouds above Glenelg beach. With scores level at 19-all the Championship was in sight for Hinchley and Rohkamper, but a lost service point and a strong Palmer serve sent the game into three sets.
Big-game serving by Palmer carried the number one seeds to a 5-0 lead in the best-of-15 final set. The mini-comeback from Hinchley and Rohkamper was not enough, with Bawden and Palmer taking the title 15-10.
“This was absolutely one of our key events heading to London 2012,” said Palmer.
“This win definitely solidifies our place as number one team in Australia and that’s definitely where we want to be heading into the next year,” she said.
Adelaide’s Glenelg beach represented more than just nationals for silver medallist Hinchley. Since the Beijing Olympic Games she got married to partner Al Hinchley, had a baby (Arley) and relocated to Adelaide- without her husband and 18-month child. The next year will determine whether the sacrifice was worth it.
Having only played their first game in November 2011, Cook and West were forced into the bronze medal match after falling to number one seeds Bawden /Palmer early on Sunday.
Cook and West fought back from a set down to take bronze and cement their place in Australia’s top three female teams. The new combination held on for the bronze to show all the signs of better results to come.
Cook, who hopes to be the first Australian women to compete at five Summer Olympics, convinced volleyball star West to put her physiotherapy studies on hold and campaign with her for London 2012.
Slams, spikes and sand-dives were the order of the men’s finals. AIS rising stars Sam Boehm and Isaac Kapa were upset earlier in the day but managed to win the bronze in a tight three-set match against Casey Grice and Aaron Crook.
Super-Dane Bo Soderberg and Justin “The Fury” Feurriegel of Queensland beat the Victorian combination of Owen Boland and Damien Schuman to win the national title in two sets.