Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour arrives in Australia as VolleySlam continues on Gold Coast
After the success of the recent Australian Beach Volleyball Championships, VolleySlam continues to provide world-class beach volleyball action on the Gold Coast as the all-new Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour kicks off today with the Beach Pro Tour Gold Coast Futures.
With international borders finally open, the Gold Coast is hosting the first ever Volleyball World Futures tournament, following the restructure of Volleyball World’s international competition to replace the previous star-rating system, alongside the top-level ‘Elite16’ and ‘Challenge’ events.
The last beach volleyball international event played in Australia was the 2019 Sydney Open on Manly Beach, where Australians Becchara Palmer and Nicole Laird won gold medals in the women’s event, and cousins Marco and Esteban Grimalt of Chile in the men’s.
Laird will again be the top Aussie podium hope at the Gold Coast Futures, this time taking to the court with Phoebe Bell.
After being crowned the Women’s Elite 2022 Australian Beach Volleyball Champions on Coolangatta Beach on Sunday, Laird and Bell are seeded at #2 and will try to challenge a deep field of international opponents which includes top-seeded Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Marie Polley of New Zealand and seed #3 Asami Shiba and Takemi Nishibori of Japan.
“We’re very much looking forward to getting out there and getting some more competition under our belts,” said Bell. “We’re going to be playing a lot of new teams which is really exciting. We’ve been off the tour for two years, so it’s always good to get fresh competition.
“Coolangatta is one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia so I think it’s awesome that international teams get to come and experience this wonderful place,” she said.
It will be an emotional moment for 2022 Australian Championships runner-ups Izac Carracher and Mark Nicolaidis, at #8 the second-best seeded Australian team in the men’s draw behind Thomas Hodges and Max Guehrer at #7.
Carracher and Nicolaidis will finally get the chance to make their World Beach Pro Tour debut after a long two-year wait, as the pair was supposed to participate in the 2020 FIVB Gold Coast 3-star tournament on Coolangatta Beach in March 2020, until COVID-19 forced cancellation on the eve of the event.
“It feels fitting for Australia to host its first international event since 2019 at the same beach the 3-star was cancelled when Covid first hit,” Carracher said.
“Mark and I are very excited for our first Futures event. To have the Futures event integrated into the VolleySlam should make for an awesome atmosphere here in Coolangatta.
“We are stoked to get an opportunity in the main draw. We can’t wait to compete and hopefully get deep into the tournament.”
Fresh from their Australian Championships win on the weekend, New Zealand’s number one men’s team Sam O’dea and Bradley Fuller are seeded at number 5 just behind Austria, Poland, England and Israel.
O’dea said he and Fuller just want to continue improving their game, trusting the process with an eye on other big events of the season such as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“We’re having fun and love to compete. We just want to keep playing more international teams. We’ve been stuck at home a bit [due to Covid], so we’re super excited for Futures,” O’dea said.
“[The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games] are definitely one of our big goals this year. We have a couple of Kiwi teams looking to get that spot, so we’ve just got to focus on doing what we did last week, and that’s winning tournaments and playing well.”
The single-elimination qualification round for the Gold Coast Futures tournament is being played today on Coolangatta Beach, QLD and will promote four teams for each gender to Thursday’s Main Draw.
Over the next two days, 32 teams will battle through the pool stage before the playoffs commence on Saturday, with semifinals and finals on Sunday 3 April.
All Gold Coast Futures Centre Court matches, including finals on Sunday, will be live streamed on the official Beach Volleyball World Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/BeachVolleyballWorld.
Sunday’s bronze medal matches will be streamed on SBS on Demand from 11.45am AEST, and the gold medal matches on SBS Australia from 2pm.
Results will also be available on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour official website.