Australia bidding to be global heartland for beach volleyball

“It puts Australia back on the map,” Carracher said.

The pair are ranked eighth in the world, having won four gold medals on the world tour, silver at last year’s Commonwealth Games and gold at the Asian championship.

Carracher said their partnership was the most dominant the country had seen since Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook won gold at the Sydney Olympics.

“If you try and compare the era and the athletes, you’ve got two athletes now that rate very similar to the athletes that Kerri and Natalie were back in 2000. The depth of field is much greater, so to be dominant you’ve got to be persistent and very selective, and they have been that,” he said.

“We hope Australia becomes known again as one of the top three nations in world beach volleyball.”

Carracher also sees the country hosting beach volleyball’s world championship in the next few years, and has made the proposal to the FIVB, the world governing body.

But Australian Commonwealth Games gold medallist Chris McHugh said restoring Australia’s status in the sport would be an “incredibly tough task”, particularly in light of the strong beach volleyball culture in the United States, Brazil, the Netherlands and Russia.

“We have the athletes to do it, but to crack that top three we’re really going to need investment from the federal government, the AIS and the sports commission to allow us to go and play as many tournaments as we can [and] also invest in the youth,” he said.

The FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is an annual series of events that allows players to earn ranking points and prize money, culminating in a finals series with the top ten teams.

It is the first time Australia has hosted a three-star event in the tour, with five-star events offering the most points and prize money.

This week’s tournament offers $150,000 split equally between both genders, but Carracher said Australia needed support to offer more.

“We upgraded this event to a three-star event because we wanted to upgrade the prize money that justifies extraordinary athletes to come to our shores. And it’s still not enough,” he said.

“Unless prize money reflects the contribution and commitment of these extraordinary athletes, these athletes will not be able to sustain themselves.”

The single-elimination phase runs from Thursday until Sunday, with the qualifiers held on Wednesday.

Natassia is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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