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No pressure on Zara and Shauna
Shauna Mullin believes both she and Team GB team-mate Zara Dampney can take advantage of playing with the pressure off when they kick off their Olympic beach volleyball campaign in the heart of London next week.
With just days until the start of the event on Horse Guards Parade – which features 48 teams across the men’s and women’s competitions playing across 13 days – tension would ordinarily be high in the ranks of the host nation’s representatives.
Yet it is no secret that Britain’s past form in Olympic beach volleyball tournaments is far from stellar – with players from these shores making just one previous appearance, back in Atlanta in 1996 on the sport’s maiden outing at the Games.
And with no recent yardstick against which to be judged, Mullin is confident conditions are perfect for the British duo to “set the standard” for future Olympic appearances.
Mullin said: “Beach volleyball in the UK is not very well known, not very big.
“We’ve not had a team at the Olympics since 1996, so that pressure that other sports might be feeling, we don’t really feel – in terms of having an Olympic reputation, or the need to match previous Olympic results.
“We’re in a really good place because we’re here to set the reputation; we’re here to set the standard for British beach volleyball at Olympic level.”
Mullin insists, however, that there is no danger of complacency creeping in, with their committed camp – headed up by coach Morph Bowes – doing everything they can to ensure the best possible result at the 15,000-capacity Horse Guards Parade venue.
“In terms of pressure to get a certain result, I don’t think we have that,” she said. “But for us – between us and in our team – the pressure to perform at the level we know we can is what we are feeling.
“We’ve been working towards this for a long time. Now that we’re here we need to embrace it, we need to be comfortable and just be ready to get on the sand, have a good time and perform.”
Meanwhile, Christchurch-born Damp-ney, 26, meanwhile, reckons she and Mullin can make London 2012 just the start of their Olympic journey, and is optimistic their moment in the spotlight will lead on to sealing a place on merit at the Rio Games in 2016.
“In terms of beach volleyball, Shauna and I are still quite young and quite inexperienced in terms of how long we’ve been playing,” she said.
“There’s definitely another Olympics in us and we want to get as much as we can from this experience to be able to build towards 2016 and hopefully put beach volleyball on the map in the UK.”
Dampney and Mullin have learned they have been drawn in Pool F for the opening phase of the Olympic tournament, alongside Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti of Italy, Russia’s Ekaterina Khomyakova and Evgenia Ukolova, and Marie-Andree Lessard and Annie Martin of Canada.