2016-12-14 12:53:00 CEST
Olympic legend Kerri Pottharst tells it how it is
Legendary Olympic gold medal hero of 2000 Kerri Pottharst says there’s never been a better time to be involved in beach volleyball – and we can’t help but agree with her!
The Australian star clinched a memorable gold with teammate Natalie Cook on home sand at the Sydney Games, and even though the stunning achievement came 16 years ago, beach volleyball still plays a huge and key role in Kerri’s life.
And that’s why she is, like us, excited by the prospect of yet more epic drama unfolding on the beach when the 2017 season kicks-off in style with the Fort Lauderdale Major in February.
“Beach volleyball is the hottest ticket in town. Fact,” Kerri told us an in exclusive interview. “There are events being run in town centers across Europe with no beach for 1,000 miles – even at the bottom of the Alps in Gstaad.
“The fact we can stage beach volleyball anywhere means the potential is limitless. Hannes Jagerhofer can dream big and sell that vision – and that’s a pretty thrilling to be a part of.”
We can tell at this point in the conversation that Kerri would love the Swatch Major Series roadshow to rock up Down Under – but while that won’t happen just yet, it’s fair to say that beach volleyball is now big business in Oz.
Australia had two women’s teams star at the Rio Olympics in the summer in the shape of Lou Bawden/Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho/Nikki Laird. Plus, after the Fort Lauderdale Major, Australia will host two events on the FIVB international calendar in March – further strengthening the country’s affection for all things beach.
“It’s a collective vision shared by players, countries, federations, including here in Australia – to have an amazing president in Craig Carracher,” continued Kerri. “We’ve started filming the first of 25 episodes of a television series called Inside Volleyball. It’s 30 minutes long on free-to-air television and it takes an in-depth look at the exciting future of the sport here.”
Kerri, who is a director on the board of Volleyball Australia, believes that while today’s beach stars might be physically stronger, she would definitely still give them a run for their money when she was at her peak.
“Most of the players are fitter these days – but probably only because of the number of events they have to play,” she says. “Personally we only played as many as six tournaments in the lead up to an Olympics – some of the players today play as many as 13 or 14.
“Skill-wise I don’t think there’s any comparison. Absolutely we could compete now. Sure the athletes now are strong and fit but it’s no more competitive and just as explosive.
“I think the game is probably a little more power-orientated but even the top teams have a lot of finesse and I think that’s important. Skill is an important tool in any players’ box – I don’t think you can just rely on power.”
Following the success of a second Swatch Major Series tour, and as we embark on a third campaign of digging and diving around Europe and North America in 2017, Kerri says the sport couldn’t be in a better place right now.
“The depth of the sport at this minute is incredible,” she says. “Now it’s a lot harder than it was to get onto to the World Tour. It’s especially harder for the men. Qualification is tough and there are a lot of really, really good teams on the Tour.
“If the depth and popularity of the sport is anything to go by at the moment, then the future is bright.”
We hear you, Kerri!
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