Laird and Bell win Australian Championships on the Gold Coast
Number one seeds Nikki Laird and Phoebe Bell have been crowned the Women’s Elite 2022 Australian Beach Volleyball Champions on Coolangatta Beach.
The local favourites came up against the unpredictable Philippines duo of Cherry Ann Rondina and Bernadeth Pons who have been nearly unstoppable in their journey to the gold medal match, only losing one pool game of seven games they had to play to get to the grand final.
Both teams brought their A-Game into the final, even coming off tough 3-set battles in the semifinals as the temperatures soared into the high 20s on Coolangatta Beach. However Aussies Laird and Bell held their nerve to win the national title in straight sets 21-18, 21-12.
The duo came into the final 2022 Australian Beach Volleyball Tout (ABVT) event of the season off the back of a World Tour appearance in Mexico, and whilst Rio 2016 Olympian Laird said it took a few games to find their groove after touching back on Australian sand, she said it all came together when it counted.
“I feel really proud of Phoebe and myself, I think we made a commitment at this event that we’d really start to plug some holes we found at that international level in Mexico,” she said.
“We made that commitment early and we grinded through the tournament with it, we led with competitiveness and I think it took care of itself in the end.”
Queensland local Bell, who won the first ABVT stop in Cobram in early February and won silver at the second event in Mollymook, said it was really great to get the win on her local beach.
“It’s so good to get a win on one of my home beaches in Queensland in front of my friends and family. I am so proud of myself and Nicki of how we’ve been throughout the tournament to get the result we were after,” Bell said
“Cheery and Bernadeth]are a great team and they put up a great fight today. They’ve played awesome all weekend and we really had to bring our top game today.”
In the women’s bronze medal match, Britt Kendall and Jasmine Fleming won in straight sets against Rebecca Ingram and Christie Jenkins (21-17, 21-18).
It was Kendall’s first event back on the national tour after a two year hiatus with a serious back injury. The 26-year-old said it’s been a really tough journey back to the sand, which makes today’s bronze medal result even more momentous.
“It feels amazing, it’s my first tournament back after a long gap, so to get the opportunity to get out there and do my thing with Jazz, it’s absolutely amazing,” Kendall said.
“It was a really long recovery process, but to come out and have some really good support here who have been eager to get me back, and Jas was fully by my side, once I got back up and running, everyone has held me together and it feels amazing.”
This is Felming’s 4th year on the National Tour, but the 19-year-old’s first ABVT podium after just falling shy in the quarterfinals and semifinals in the two earlier rounds,
“I was saying to my coach earlier, I got 5th in Cobram and 4th in Mollymook, it was about time I finished on the podium, and it’s only up from here,” she said.
“It’s the first time I’ve played with Britt but we have a super great dynamic, we compliment each other really well, in our volleyball and our personalities.”
In a few days time, Laird, Bell, Kendall and Felming will all be back in action representing the green and gold at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Gold Coast Futures Event.
See all results from the Australian Championships HERE