Australia’s international beach volleyball campaign kicks off this week, with two of Australia’s Rio Olympians teaming together to compete at the first FIVB World Tour event of 2017 at Fort Lauderdale, USA.
Louise Bawden and Nikki Laird played with different partners in Rio, with Bawden, at her third Olympic Games, finishing fifth alongside Olympic debutant, Taliqua Clancy.
Clancy is currently recovering from injury, providing an opportunity for Laird, who partnered Mariafe Artacho del Solar in Rio, to play alongside Australia’s most experienced international player.
“Partnering with Lou is a huge opportunity for me to learn from someone who has proven consistent success on the World Tour,” Laird said from the US this week.
“It's awesome to be back into international competition and so soon in the year. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to fast track some of the learnings and progressions we've made in the off season and test them out against the world's best.”
Bawden and Laird have had warm-up tournaments in Australia to prepare themselves for the step up, and they’ve been drawn in a tough group at Fort Lauderdale, which includes the highly rated Brazilian pair of Larissa and Talita.
But Laird said her Olympic experience last year has whet her appetite for the future, and she’s ready to step up against the world best.
“Post-Rio has been an interesting time for me, as I'm sure it has been for a lot of athletes,” Laird said.
“There's definitely a strong renewal of motivation to achieve greater success over the next cycle.
“My goals for this year are to bring a strong level of consistent success in the main draw on World Tour, and also to improve on my 17th from World Champs 2015.”
Bawden and Laird play their first game in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday morning, Australian time.