The only way is up

16.06.2019 - Hamburg

Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have become a tour de force on the World Tour since joining forces in late 2017. Arguably one of the form teams in that time, the volleyroos have their eyes firmly fixed on the main prize in Hamburg.

Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar looked at each other for a second, completely baffled. You know the kind of look: when you’re told something you honestly can’t believe is true but it’s blatantly obviously is and you feel a bit silly. What usually follows is an embarrassed giggle as the brain realizes all along that yes, yes what you have been told is, of course, true.

In this case, the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Hamburg 2019 presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord will be the Australian pair’s first championships together.

They hadn’t realized. But it’s true. The giggles were a give-away.

However, when you’re swept up in the middle of a success story that has seen the duo win a host of World Tour medals, the host recent gold in Warsaw, and establish themselves as one of the best beach volleyball teams in the world, it’s probably quite easy to forget such a detail.

Yet while that fact is very much true, it’s no surprise that Clancy and Artacho have forgotten they only began playing together on the FIVB World Tour in October 2017. Especially considering they won back-to-back gold medals in their first two tournaments.

And the medals have kept coming ever since. A run of four in eight tournaments kicked things off. They then went and won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, took back-to-back Asian Championship titles and since had gained another three World Tour medals cumulating in this weekend’s gold in Poland.

No wonder they’re smiling. However, now’s the time to add a World title to their growing list of silverware when they head for Hamburg.

“It’s even more exciting to think this will be our first World Champs together,” smiled Taliqua, who partnered her now coach Louise Bawden at three previous World Championships.

“It’s nice to be able to gel together those experiences from the past with what we’ve learned as a partnership. We’ve taken a lot of growth in areas of our game we wanted to improve following last year’s World Tour Finals.”

What the pair definitely know if that they want to go beyond the bronze medal they won in Hamburg at those World Tour Finals last season.

“There’s no ceiling to our game and that excites us,” continues Clancy. “We’re lucky enough that Mariafe and I have been on the same page and that we have really high goals. Last year in Hamburg the crowd had an amazing energy and we can’t wait for more of the same. We’re focused on improving.”

Mariafe missed Vienna two years ago but still has the experience of two previous championships under her belt as the 25-year-old Peru-born defender aims to continue the kind of form that has elevated the team to among the world’s elite.

Another gold medal in Hamburg, where they begin in a tough Pool C that includes three-time champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, would naturally confirm their position as one of the most feared teams on the Tour.

But personal glory aside, Clancy believes being crowned World Champion would also do wonders for beach volleyball in the pair’s homeland.

“It would be huge for Australia,” says the 26-year-old, answering the question in a flash, as quick as one of her serves. “Winning the World Champs would 100 per cent be unbelievable for the sport there.

“There’s not much knowledge of how big beach volleyball is; that we have a World Tour, that we play professionally against high-class athletes every week who are Olympians and World Champions. Until you have that title, they don’t know. So success would be huge for us, to get that message out there in Australia.”

And if that’s the case, and come the women’s final on July 6 and Taliqua and Mariafe are standing on top of the podium, you try getting them to forget their first World Championships together. Hamburg, watch out.