Palmer returns to the beach25 October 2013
BEACH VOLLEYBALL: There were a lot of very disillusioned athletes after the London Olympics, and among them was beach volleyballer Becchara Palmer.
So disappointed was the Adelaide-based player she decided, at the age of just 24, to walk away from the sport, possibly never to return.
But now having cooled her heels, she’s ready to return.
“The last 12 months have been pretty mad to be honest,” Palmer said this week.
“I’ve kind of gone a full circle since London, with taking some time off and being a bit unsure what my future in the sport was going to look like. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
“I stepped away from sport and training, and thought ‘alright, if this is meant to be, then something will pull me back in, but I’m not going to force it, I’m just going to see where the next six months take me.
“Turns out perhaps I’m not quite done just yet.”
To come back has meant some pretty big changes. Palmer underwent major shoulder surgery, which she hopes will give her more confidence on the court.
And she’s had to find a new playing partner. Her Olympic partner, Louise Bawden, is now playing with Queensland’s Taliqua Clancy, a pairing who went through the last Australian summer undefeated.
Teaming up with Palmer at the Phuket Open next week, and hopefully for the upcoming Australian summer, will be former Youth Olympic silver medalist, Zina Stone.
Palmer believes the sport hasn’t seen the best of 23-year-old Stone, who has been struggling with a series of injuries in recent years.
“I think one of our advantages is going to be Zina’s athleticism, and her vertical leap, which is insane,” Palmer said.
“And she’s so enthusiastic and keen to play and to improve. She wants to go the Olympics more than anyone I’ve ever met, which is so inspiring and helpful for me to try and help her get there.”
And she certainly believes the world is yet to see the best of Becchara Palmer.
“London as a whole was phenomenal, because it was my first Olympics so it was very overwhelming in a lot of senses,” she said.
“But I guess the major disappointment for me was just that both for myself and Lou (Bawden) as a team, we didn’t play our best. We played some really fantastic volleyball leading into London and to qualify ourselves in the top 16, but the performances in London were a little bit disappointing.
“So the whole lead up, the whole 18 months that went into qualifying, and the years before that playing with Lou, culminated in something that was a little bit disappointing.”
The other big challenge, especially for Palmer, is she’s no longer part of the AIS program. It means she’ll get very little help financially, while her main rivals, Bawden and Clancy, will be full-time professionals.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last six years being in the AIS, but I guess I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could find a different way to do it,” Palmer said.
“The top 20 teams in the world are all fully professional players, but there’s no way leading into Rio I still want to be working 30 hours a week.”
So this Saturday Becchara Palmer and Zina Stone will fly out of Adelaide for Phuket, to compete in their first big event since coming together earlier this year.
Palmer doesn’t know how they’ll go, but she does know now she’s doing the right thing.
“I haven’t competed since London, but each morning I’m getting up and I’m really motivated and inspired and looking forward to training and learning something new and I’ve really embraced the different environment and the different people around me,” she said.
And after Phuket, it will be time for the domestic summer season, with the opening event in Adelaide in January. That’s when the real test will start.
Ross Solly/ Volleyball Australia