Clancy, 23, will become Australia’s first Indigenous Olympian in the sport and Bawden, 34, is off to her third Games, 16 years after her first. The pair joined forces after the London Olympics and have continued to improve and now consistently challenge the top teams in the world.
The pair finished the 15-month qualification period seeded seventh on Olympic adjusted rankings, to easily secure the most direct way to the Games amongst the top 15 teams.
Both athletes are proud to have secured Olympic selection and to be seeded near the top of the field, but it is just the start of their Rio plans.
“Selection is very exciting and I feel very fortunate to be going to a third Games but the job is not done,” Bawden, who played indoor volleyball at Sydney 2000 and beach with Becchara Palmer at London 2012, said.
“Seeded seventh is a good position to be in, but we are always wanting more. We are doing everything possible to produce our strongest performances and win an Olympic medal on the beach in Rio.”
The Adelaide-based pair had match points against the world champions from Brazil in Hamburg last week before finishing fifth, providing more motivation for the final weeks of their preparation.
Clancy hopes her hard work and rise from top junior to making her first Olympic team will motivate other Indigenous athletes to follow in her footsteps.
“I’m really proud of it (selection),” Clancy said. “I’m starting to realise how special it is for me and my culture. I hope I can inspire people to dream and do things that haven’t been done before.
“My family are really happy for me. They don’t get too over excited but they are pretty proud.”
Clancy left her hometown of Kingaroy in Queensland - which is 200km inland from the nearest beach – aged 16, and was soon part of the Australian beach volleyball program in Adelaide. She was part of the Continental Cup team format that helped Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley secure their place at London 2012.
Clancy has not been back home to Kingaroy for quite a while but she is looking forward to going back there after the Games.
“I don’t get home too much but my grandparents keep me updated on what is happening and I’m looking forward to going back for a visit after the Games.”
Her grandparents won’t make the trip to Rio but the rest of her direct family, and some friends who are already travelling, will be sitting in the stands cheering on the Aussies at Copacabana Beach.
Bawden’s longevity in the sport is remarkable and she has enjoyed assuming the senior role as they continue to improve. One of their targets is ‘continual growth’ and personally Bawden is ‘really loving it and still finding areas to improve.’
The pair travel back to Europe on Friday for more tournaments in Croatia and Switzerland. The Major Series event in Gstaad is where the make-up of the four teams in each of the six pools will be known.
Australia can qualify one more women’s team and a men’s team for Rio through the cut-throat Asia- Pacific Continental Cup Final being held on the Esplanade in Cairns this week. The top men’s and women’s team at the tournament will book their spot in Rio, while the second and third placed teams get one last shot in Russia next month.
The Continental Cup process started back in early 2015 and Bawden is feeling for her teammates.
“We are sending good vibes to the Teams up in Cairns. T (Taliqua) was part of it for London and it is an incredibly high pressure event. The pairs are supporting each other well and are feeling positive.”
Three-time Asian Champions Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa will look to assert their dominance. The second Australian team will be Joshua Court and Damien Schumann.
Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar were second behind a strong Chinese Team at the recent Asian Championships on Manly Beach and they’ll be looking to turn the tables in Cairns. 2012 Olympian Becchara Palmer and former Australian indoor player, Phoebe Bell, will make up the second team.
The selection of Bawden and Clancy takes the number of athletes on the 2016 Olympic Team so far to 189 from 19 sports, with an expected final team of around 400 athletes.