Beach boys hoping to impress

19 July 2012 / 18:30

British beach volleyball Olympians Steve Grotowski and John Garcia-Thompson have vowed to wow the crowds at Horse Guards Parade when the action gets under way at the iconic London venue next week.

Men's beach volleyball has long laboured in the shadow of the women's game, a fact starkly underlined a year ago when male players were not invited to the successful pre-Olympic test event at Horse Guards.

A year on little has changed, with the recent announcement of Grotowski and Garcia-Thompson as members of Team GB a significantly more low-key affair than that of female counterparts Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin.

With so much of the attention in the build-up to the 2012 Games focused on the women's game, Grotowski and Garcia-Thompson have much to do to become a headline act when they line up against 23 of the world's best beach volleyball pairings come the Olympics.

Yet according to Grotowski, the men's game should have no trouble in making an immediate impact on the 15,000-strong crowd at Horse Guards Parade, insisting those who watched the women in action a year ago can expect even greater things from the men's competition.

"It's a similar difference between men's basketball and women's basketball. It's played a little higher," Grotowski said. "I think people are going to be impressed and maybe definitely taken aback. It will be something they weren't expecting. The men's game is much more dynamic."

Britain's male beach volleyballers suffered hugely when UK Sport cut funding to a number of disciplines in late 2010, and the last 18 months have been all about survival for Grotowski and Garcia-Thompson, who needed to compete in 12 events on the sport's world tour to be eligible for consideration for Team GB's host member berth.

A key target for the team, therefore, is to put on a good display - a top-10 finish is their stated, if modest, aim - in order to vault themselves towards the front of the queue when decision time comes regarding the next batch of funding from UK Sport.

"It was hard when the funding was cut, but from this Olympics the [GB] men's teams have to come on," said Garcia-Thompson. "We are hoping we see some more teams in Rio 2016. If we get a good result it's going to be really good for us and good for our sport.

"There are some young guys with lots of potential, but if they don't have support, it's quite difficult."