Yesterday, Adelaide-based beach volleyballers Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy secured their places on the sands of Copacabana beach, the home of their sport. The pair, who have competed together since late 2012 and are the number one ranked women’s team in Australia, finished with an Australian-high seventh spot in the world rankings, meaning they’re now guaranteed to represent their country at the Summer Olympic Games in little under two months time.
Herewith, 23-year-old Clancy, who will make her debut in Rio as the first Indigenous woman to play her sport at an Olympic level, speaks with GRAZIA on her love of the sport and what it has taught her about maintaining relationships.
“One of my earliest memories of sport and the Olympics, one I always seem to come back to, is the Sydney Olympics and watching Cathy Freeman. I’ll always remember jumping on the lounge and will never forget the buzz that surrounded that entire three-week period.
“My first time playing indoor volleyball was in eighth grade at high school in Kingaroy or ‘Peanut Town’ in Queensland. At the time, it was nothing too special and I never would’ve imagined that I’d end up here today. I played a lot of sport as a kid, but to fall in love with volleyball and beach volleyball in particular was definitely a surprise, especially coming from the country, where there was no sand.
“The idea of going from Peanuts to Rio for my first Olympics is really exciting. Lou [Bawden, Clancey’s teammate] and I have put ourselves in a really good position to podium. Putting on the uniform now creates a bit of nerves, but for the most part I feel confident. In addition to Lou, [five time Olympian] Natalie Cook has supported me throughout my whole journey. She’s an Olympic gold medallist for beach volleyball as well, so I don’t think you could really ask for a better mentor. Recently we competed at the Victorian Open in Brazil and we just fell short of the podium and came fourth, but success to me isn’t just about medals and trophies – it’s more about the goals you set and the hard work and energy you put in to get there. As long as you leave everything you have out on the court and you’ve done everything possible, [it doesn’t matter] if you fall a bit short. It’s not about what you go for, but how you grow and learn – I think that’s how you know you’ve been successful.
“A beach volleyball partnership is kind of like a relationship without any benefits. It teaches you compromise, and all the other joys of being in a relationship with someone. We spend a lot of time together travelling and the entire experience teaches you a lot of other life skills. Competing with someone has helped me form really strong connections with my friends back home, and the people I value and love.”
Tile and cover photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images