Players prove it's not just bikinis

12 August 2012 / 13:53

British success at the 2012 London Olympics will be glowingly recorded in the history books thanks to a glut of gold, silver and bronze medals, but for our beach volleyballers the reward is poised to be an increased profile to help drive the sport forward in this country in the coming years.

Beach volleyball's eye-catching outing at Horse Guards Parade has brought a sport rich in fun, intensity and athleticism to the attention of the wider public, and at its heart were four British players doing their bit to add some home success to all the hype.

In the performances of Shauna Mullin, Zara Dampney, Steve Grotowski and John Garcia-Thompson, Britain showed that it is not too far away from competing in this sport at the highest level, but ultimately the gap proved too great to bridge as both the women's and men's pairs exited before the knockout stage.

The high point for the British teams came early when women's duo Mullin and Dampney beat Canada in their opening preliminary phase match, but that sadly proved a false dawn.

That win was the only one from seven matches involving British teams, but that did little to dilute the party atmosphere at Horse Guards' temporary 15,000-seater arena, and hopes are high in the British camp that 2012 will ultimately prove a watershed moment for beach volleyball in this country.

Certainly the profile of their players has been raised, with Mullin admitting that the preconception of the sport being about little else but bikinis and bodies has already been replaced by genuine appreciation for the talent of the players.

"People who are recognising us in the street tell us they love the sport, they've seen us win or lose, and they are seeing us as actual athletes and representatives of beach volleyball," Mullin told Press Association Sport.

"To bring that home and to have everyone's interest, saying they love the sport, it's very different to the reaction we had in the past when it was all about us being the two that wear bikinis.

"Now the sport has seen to be dynamic and skilful - that there is more to it than just bikinis - that change in perception will only help."

The location of the Olympic event was crucial to its success. Flanked by St James's Park and the gardens of 10 Downing Street, the venue boasted stunning views, with the Old Admiralty Building, Big Ben, the London Eye and even the Shard all within the gaze of spectators.