Undefeated beach volleyball pairing off to fast start together
25 October 2017
BEACH VOLLEYBALL: In a few short weeks, Australian beach volleyballers Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have gone from not playing together as seniors to a wonder duo.
Clancy and Artacho del Solar, trialled as a pair for a tournament earlier this month in Japan, haven't lost a match together since, winning gold at that event and two others in China and Indonesia.
Both say competing together for the first time since 2012 - when they shared some court time as juniors - felt completely natural.
"Everything felt so smooth; it felt really good," Clancy said on Tuesday in Sydney.
Artacho del Solar said the pair's belief and trust in each other had been key to that easy fit.
"It just made it so much fun to be on court and I think that was really what helped us to be so successful," she said.
Clancy, 25, and Artacho del Solar, 23, made Olympic debuts last year in Rio but with different partners.
Artacho del Solar and Nicole Laird, having gone to high school together in Sydney, didn't win a match, while Clancy and triple Olympian Louise Bawden came fifth.
Clancy grew up in the Queensland town of Kingaroy and was scouted for beach volleyball at 15 after playing indoor volleyball. For her, Rio brought the milestone of becoming the first indigenous volleyballer to represent Australia at an Olympics.
Australia's senior women's volleyball coach Simon Naismith said it was thought Clancy and Artacho del Solar would make a good match but their "absolutely outstanding" performance this month had defied expectations.
However it will not be clear until February, after three Commonwealth Games selection events in Australia, whether they can be the combination representing the host nation in the sport next year on the Gold Coast.
In either case, Naismith thinks the duo's impressive results will spur on other Australian women taking part in the first selection event next month in Manly.
"It's only going to make the training environment more competitive," he said.