Australia and Olympic Volleyball
Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook won Australia’s first ever Olympic volleyball medal when they won the bronze on the beach at Atlanta in 1996 at the discipline's debut. Four years later in Sydney, Pottharst and Cook won the gold medal before thousands of hometown fans on Bondi Beach.
Tamsin Hinchley (Barnett), who played indoor volleyball for Australia in Sydney 2000, switched to the beach and finished fifth alongside Cook in Beijing 2008 before the duo agin combined four years later. The London Olympics marked Cook’s fifth and final Games. She bowed out as the only athlete to have competed in all five beach competitions since its Olympic inception and the first female summer Olympian to compete at five Games for Australia.
Outside of Cook and Pottharst's medals, it was the men’s pair of Julien Prosser and Mark Williams who have gone closest to another podium finish for Australia.The duo made the bronze medal match of Athens 2004 where they went down in the third set 13-15 to finish fourth.
Having competed in London with Becchara Palmer, Lousie Bawden returned to Olympic competition in Rio with Australia's first indigenous beach volleyball athlete Taliqua Clancy. The duo topped their pool with three straight wins before claiming a 2-1 victory over Poland in the round of 16. The win set up a clash with formidable USA pairing of Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Walsh who went on to defeat the Aussies in straight sets. Australia's other pairing in Rio, U/23 World Champions Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, were unable to secure a win in what was a tough pool.
Only one Australian indoor volleyball team, the men in Athens 2004, had ever qualified to play at an away Olympic Games before London so the young Australian side had their backs against the wall just to book their tickets to the 2012 Games. The team needed to finish in the top two at the final qualifying tournament where they were ranked the lowest of the eight competing teams. Pulling off a string of amazing victories the Australians ensured they would be representing their nation in London.
Not content to make up the numbers, the Aussies had some strong performances in London. They knocked off the British side in straight sets, lost in five sets to world number six Italy before winning their last match against the third ranked Polish side to go within one win of make the quarter-finals.
Despite some promising results in London the side were unable to make the Rio 2016 Games. The side needed to win their final match against Poland to progress but went down 3-0 after a gruelling final qualification tournament.
The Australian women's team have never qualified for an Olympic Games but did participate in the Sydney 2000 competition after being awarded a spot as the host nation. The side won their only match in Olympic competition when they defeated Kenya 3-1.
The International Volleyball Federation was founded in 1946, ten years before the sport was recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Volleyball (indoor) for men and women was added to the Olympic program in Tokyo 1964 with the Soviet Union winning the men’s and Japan the women’s in front of the home crowd.
Beach volleyball gained Olympic status in Atlanta 1996. The United States team of Charles “Karch” Kiraly and Kent Steffes won the men’s title. Kiraly was a member of the gold medal-winning United States team in indoor volleyball in Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988.
Traditional six-a-side indoor volleyball is referred to at the Olympic Games as volleyball. So the Olympic sport of volleyball has two disciplines - beach volleyball and volleyball. Both disciplines follow the same basic skills, and the flow of play follows similar lines: one team serves, the other tries to win the rally - or 'side-out' - with a pattern of dig, set, spike within the requisite three touches.
In volleyball, the team winning a rally scores a point (Rally Point System). When the receiving team wins a rally, it gains a point and the right to serve, and its players rotate one position clockwise.
Indoor matches are played in the “best of five set” format. The first four sets are played to 25 points and the fifth set to 15. For all sets a 2 point advantage is required, with no cap.
Beach volleyball matches are the “best two of three set” format. The first team to win two sets wins the match. The first two sets are played to 21 points, and the 3rd set if needed is played to 15 points. For all sets a 2 point advantage is required, with no cap.