Cairns, Australia, June 26, 2016 – Qatar is set to have its first ever beach volleyball team at an Olympics, while Australia will have two women’s teams, after a pulsating final day at the AVC Continental Olympic qualifiers in Cairns on Sunday.
Qatar clinched its first ever Olympics berth when it beat China in straight sets in the men’s final, while Australia overcame some nervous moments before beating Vanuatu, also in straight sets, in a nail-biting final at the Asian Continental qualifiers in Cairns.
Bronze medallists China (women) and Kazakhstan (men) will join the silver medallists at the final Olympic qualifiers in Sochi, Russia, in two week’s time.
But for the second Olympics in a row Australia will be without a men’s team, after the top seeds lost to Kazakhstan in the bronze medal playoff.
Qatar’s Jefferson Pereira said it was exciting to make beach volleyball history.
“We worked so hard for this moment,” he said.
“The last month was so stressful, we trained just for this moment. Everyone left their family and went outside to train, it was so stressful.
“But we did it. We are going to the Olympics. We are now part of the history of Qatar now.
“The country has no history in beach volleyball, I moved to Qatar to try and raise beach volleyball, and now we have made a huge step towards growing the sport in Qatar.”
Australia will now need to decide which two beach volleyballers they will nominate to the Australian Olympic Committee, after first Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, and then Becchara Palmer and Phoebe Bell, beat their Vanuatu opponents to book Australia’s Rio ticket.
Australian coach Lauren Soderberg, who had previously coached the Vanuatu team of Miller Pata and Linline Matauata, said her team had stepped up when it needed to.
“The last two months, when we brought the team together, they bought in 100 per cent as a team,” Soderberg said
“Nikki and Mariafe have been asked so many tough questions over the last two months to be better, and to make sure they were on their game, and they did it.
“I just feel so proud to be part of this Australian team today.”