The Australian star enters the Olympic year with Paris in her mind – read the exclusive Volleyball World interview

Mariafe is close to making her third Olympic appearance and is determined to win gold in Paris, one of her favorite cities in the world

The 2024 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour season will start a little bit earlier for Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy than for the other elite teams from around the world as the Australians are set to get on the court this weekend in their home sand of Mollymook, which will host the first Futures event of the year.

The tournament will mark the start of what should be a big year for the two, who are set to make their third Olympic appearances (and their second as partners) and will be looking to build from the silver medal they won three years ago in Tokyo.

Before thinking about the Paris 2024 Games properly, Clancy and Mariafe have, however, to finalize their qualification process. Since they only played in ten events since the start of the qualification period, the Australians need two more finishes to reach the minimum number of 12 events in order to be eligible to earn one of the spots in play via the FIVB Olympic Rankings.

Since they are also entered to compete at next week’s Doha Elite16, that shouldn’t be a problem for much longer for the two, who currently have 6,780 points and would be ranked eighth if they had enough finishes – the top 17 teams in the list will qualify for Paris 2024.

Clancy and Mariafe might not have played a lot in 2023, but they were fairly successful when they did, medaling in three events (silver at the Uberlândia Elite16 and bronze at the Doha Elite16 and the Tepic Elite16) and making another two semifinal appearances (World Championships in Mexico and Beach Pro Tour Finals in Doha). The good recent results and the solidness of a partnership that started seven years ago give the Aussies the foundations to battle the tops teams in the world for another season.

Just a few days before their season officially starts, Mariafe took the time to catch up with Volleyball World in an exclusive interview:

Volleyball World: How did the offseason go for you? Did you do anything fun or different?

Mariafe: “Offseason was great. It felt a little bit short because we finished our season so late last year, but it was definitely a much-needed break for us.”

VW: This season will be the seventh for your team. How would you describe the first six years as partners and how much better do you still think you two can get together?

Mariafe: “I didn’t even realize this was going to be our seventh year, it’s crazy how fast it goes. It’s been really good, we’ve had plenty of success, which has been very nice. As with any team, we’ve also had our lows, but that’s normal. You kind of need to experience the lows to know how the highs feel and vice-versa. It’s been really nice, it’s been really fun. I feel like you always have something to improve and that you can never perfect the game. There’s always something to learn and to get better at. There are always new things you can implement in your game and beach volleyball is changing and moving really fast. You always have to stay on top of it and bring new plays. We obviously play a very physical game across the whole net, but we’re always trying to find new ways to beat the opposition.”

VW: Taliqua and you didn’t get to play in many tournaments last season and you have only ten eligible results for the Olympic Rankings. Was it planned or did you have to deal with injuries or something similar?

Mariafe: “There were so many events last year and, with us being from Australia, some of these trips can get really long. If we had played all of them, we would have been away for a long time, so we had to manage that too. We also wanted to make sure we’d have enough time to rest mentally, emotionally and physically. There’s a lot to it when we decide which events we’ll travel to but we’ll definitely get these two events we need to get to the 12 we need.”

VW: You two are entered to play at the first Beach Pro Tour event of the season, a Futures in Mollymook this week. This is going to be the first time you play in a Futures. How does that fit into your preparation for 2024?

Mariafe: “I think that the goal is to play as much as we can, get as many games as we can so we can get ready for the season.”

VW: If you manage to qualify, it would be the third Olympic appearance for both of you. Is there anything that you do differently in terms of preparing or competing in an Olympic year to get to the Games at the top of your form?

Mariafe: “That’s really exciting. My goal was always to make it to three Olympics, so that would be very nice. Nothing really changes for us in regards to preparation, it’s always focusing on the processes and focusing on each event. We want to make sure we make the most of the opportunity to be the best prepared we can.”

VW: You two took silver in Tokyo, which is obviously an excellent result, but can also be a little bit frustrating because it means you got really close to winning gold. Does it motivate you to go for gold in Paris? What kind of mindset will you enter this year’s Olympics with?

Mariafe: “Yes, we were so close…It was an incredible experience to be a part of a final in the Olympic Games. Obviously, the goal is always to win and bring home the gold medals, but we are focused on the process now. The beach volleyball tournament goes for the duration of the entire Olympics, so we almost have to treat each game as a tournament on its own and that’s what we’re going to do. But the goal is definitely to play in that final again and bring back gold this time.”

VW: Following into your social media, it’s really easy to notice that you love being in Paris as you have posts saying that when you go there to compete. Do you already imagine yourself competing there, at the feet of the Eiffel Tower? What do you expect the atmosphere and the event to be like?

Mariafe: “I love Paris! I find it such a magical city, it’s so beautiful. I’m so excited to be playing there later this year. Playing in front of the Eiffel Tower will be an incredible experience and, not being biased, beach volleyball is always one of the best sports at the Olympics. The atmosphere is going to be incredible, the energy of the crowd is going to be amazing and everyone is going to be having such a good time. I can’t wait!”


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