2018-04-06 01:11:00 CET
Beach volleyball makes its Commonwealth Games debut on Friday and the stars of the Beach Volleyball Major Series know it’s an important time to capture the imagination of millions around the world
Major fans clap your hands! On the Beach Volleyball Major Series, we know exactly what it takes to get the crowd on their feet inside the Red Bull Beach Arena.
Our mission of bringing top-class beach volleyball to the masses continues – you only had to see the packed Red Bull Beach Arena at the Fort Lauderdale Major in February to see that the love for the game is growing.
However, an even greater audience will be glued to their television sets when the Commonwealth Games welcomes beach volleyball for the first time in the competition’s 88-year history when it kicks off at Australia’s Gold Coast at 10.30am AEST on Friday.
The global exposure of the Commonwealth’s two billion population is a fact not lost on the array of beach volleyball stars on show on the Gold Coast, who know they have a mission to educate and entertain a global audience.
It is a chance to put beach volleyball into the minds of millions, and one that cannot be passed up at the biggest multi-sport event behind the Olympics.
“It’s a unique opportunity for all of us as players to help appeal the sport to the masses,” says Canada’s Sam Pedlow. Together with Sam Schachter, the 30-year-old from Toronto is hoping for a medal after a ninth place in Fort Lauderdale. “With the world watching on television it’s going to be huge. Even if 10 per cent of the Commonwealth population show an interest, that would be monumental. We need to let the world know that beach volleyball is here, that it’s exciting and people should climb on board.”
Teammate and fellow Sam agrees. “It’s important to grow the sport, it is one of the most popular sports in the world,” says the 27-year-old. “It’s a sport that has a party vibe and it would be nice to spread that around the world. We need more people to watch and get into it and that’s what makes our sport special.”
Canada have high hopes of a first beach medal across both genders. Current women’s world number one Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan are also ready to rumble Down Under.
“It’s extremely important to showcase beach volleyball because it’s so under appreciated,” says Melissa, who finished fourth at last year’s World Championships and won Beach Major Series gold in Poreč last season.
“It’s such a beautiful sport and I think having this competition on a global scale can help grow the sport and show people what they’re missing. We’re really excited to represent Canada and show the world everyone how beautiful the sport is.”
Two teams from both England and Scotland will be strutting their stuff on the sand in Coolangatta, hoping to capture the imagination of a British public that have shown in the past they have an appetite for a power block and a pokey. The London 2012 Olympics saw sell-out crowds watch the beach volleyball action unfold – but the sport is still has minority status in the UK.
“The Olympics was the springboard for the next generation in the UK and we took several positive steps after London to get the next generation interested and playing,” says Jake Sheaf, the English defender who played alongside Chris Gregory in Fort Lauderdale two months ago.
The pair now have their sights on Gold Coast glory.
“We sent the sand from the Olympics around to courts in London to allow more people to play,” continues 28-year-old Jake, who is the driving force behind the newly unveiled UK Beach Tour. “The focus is the next generation. We’re all involved, the systems are in place and positive steps are being taken to ensure there’s a future for beach volleyball in England.”
The English women’s team have already declared their love for the sport. It’s their mission – just like ours – to spread the beach feeling around the globe.
“As athletes we’re responsible for how we portray the sport,” says Jessica Grimson. “We’ve worked hard to get here, and now we have to prove we deserve to be playing on such a big stage. Hopefully in England, and in some of the smaller nations, the public can appreciate beach volleyball a little bit more.
“I’m sure people in England wouldn’t be able to get their heads around the magnitude of a Beach Major Series event. They would be thinking ‘is this for beach volleyball?’ Hopefully we can play a small part in helping get that message across by doing ourselves justice Australia.”
Having home advantage will give Australia favorites Damien Schumann and Chris McHugh a massive boost. The World Tour regulars both played on the sandy beach at Coolangatta, just a stone’s throw away from the Center Court, so the Aussie boys know how vital a positive result for them and teammates Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar will be on home sand.
“It’s extremely important for the sport – beach volleyball will be beamed into millions and billions of televisions around the world,” explains Damien. “It’s going to be on [TV] in Australia every night. To have big sporting countries like Australia and England competing live to the public is very important. Our sport needs that exposure – especially to reach an audience of fans who have never experienced how good this sport is.”
Australia’s coastline totals almost 60,000 km yet, beach volleyball isn’t the sport locals flock to watch. That’s reserved for cricket, Australian Football and rugby. That said tickets here have been snapped up a sell-out crowd is anticipated to watch every session until the finals on April 12.
“Beach volleyball is not a big sport in Australia, it’s competing with the likes of cricket and football,” explains Schumann’s partner in crime on the court, Chris McHugh. “This tournament is a great opportunity for us to get on the podium and promote beach volleyball. If we can do that and aim to inspire more people to come and play and watch, get out and get involved then that would be perfect.”
One of the Commonwealth Games hashtags is #ShareTheDream. For the beach elite competing in this historic tournament, that message carries an extra obligation: to show the watching billions around the world that beach volleyball means business.