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Smashing beach volleyball myths and my road to 2012

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Shauna Mullin

Team GB beach volleyball player

Shauna Mullin, Team GB beach volleyball player provides an insight into training, preparations and hopes for the London Olympics.

What comes to mind when you hear about beach volleyball? Surely it’s bikinis and the beach? Do you ever think about two female athletes who train up to six hours a day to be able to compete with the best in the sport on the FIVB beach volley world tour? Enter me and Zara Dampney, as one of the British teams our dream and goal is to play at Horse Guards Parade at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Just so you know what’s going on when you come to watch team GB in July 2012 here are some of the rules: Each team is allowed a total of three touches, which usually comprise a dig, made with your forearms, a set, made with either your fingers or forearms and a hit or, as some like to call it, a smash. If the ball touches the net play continues. However, if a player touches the net, they will lose the point. Each match is played in rally point style and is best of three sets, with the first two sets to 21 and the third and deciding set to 15 points. The FIVB beach volley world tour is very similar to the ATP tennis world tour, whereby results at open and grand slam events allow teams/players to accrue points which effect their world and tournament ranking.
Zara Dampney and Shauna MullinSo now you know a little about the game, how about the British players? I’ve been playing beach volleyball with Zara Dampney for three years. We both previously competed against each other on the Scottish and English indoor national teams respectively. Once the beach programme was announced it didn’t take long for us both to hang up our indoor shoes and take to the sand. Our best result together on the World Tour is a 9th, which we achieved in Kristiansand, Norway in 2009, taking out teams from Norway and Brazil. Another highlight was qualifying for the World Championships in 2009 after only being on tour for one season.
This season there are 15 women’s events on the FIVB world tour. All will count towards their Olympic Qualification. Although there is a host nation spot, we have the ability and drive to get the results we need to be able to qualify in our own right to compete at Horse Guards Parade. Due to not having an indoor beach facility in the UK, the GB beach volleyball squad have had to travel abroad for warm weather sand training. Before Christmas we were in Brisbane, Australia for ten weeks. After Christmas we spent a month in New Zealand, two weeks in Tenerife in February and all March in Hermosa Beach, California. The first stop on tour will be in Brasilia, Brazil, which is notoriously very hot and dusty. The next stop takes us onto China for two weeks, before we return home for a week to recover before taking off again. One of the things we have got very good at is packing one 23 kg bag that needs to last us up to three weeks on tour, and living out of and repacking said bag many times during that three week window.
Shauna Mullin playing beach volleyball

Global training ground

When asked, we would describe our partnership like a marriage. We spend 10 months of the year in each other’s pockets and sleep next to each other in small hotel rooms where the single beds are maximum one foot apart, although these aren’t the good things about being in a marriage. Our partnership goes through many ups and down, which are related to competing at an elite level, but there is nothing more exciting than seeing things we have spent hours practising come out in competitive situations. Whenever Zara and I check in for any flight, we request window seats, which always puzzles the airline staff: “Well you can’t sit together if both want window seats.” To which one of us always replies, “Oh we don’t want to sit together.” Suffice to say we take our time apart very seriously, as it is precious!
An exciting event in the calendar this year will be the Olympic test event, which will take place at Horse Guards Parade from 8-14 of August 2011. It will be a great opportunity for Great Britain to experience beach volleyball at its best and hopefully get everyone excited for the main event just under a year later.
Our season finishes in Phuket, Thailand in October. After that event we will have a little time off before starting our preparation for the last couple of Olympic qualifying tournaments in the 2012 season and the main event…The London 2012 Olympic Games.

Images courtesy of Team 2012. © Team 2012.
Team 2012, presented by Visa, is the official support programme for British athletes striving to be selected for Team GB and ParalympicsGB. It helps to raise funds for vital support services to help over 1,200 athletes who are in training to be selected for Great Britain & Northern Ireland at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond. For athlete updates and to show your support, visit www.team-2012.com.

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