Beach volleyball: Pressure on Rio contenders

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Mike Watson (left), and Sam O'Dea are chasing an Olympic Games place.
Mike Watson (left), and Sam O'Dea are chasing an Olympic Games place.

Tauranga's quartet of professional beach volleyball players in Mike Watson, Sam O'Dea, Jason Lochhead and Ben O'Dea plus Thomas Hartles (reserve from North Harbour) have arrived in Australia to represent New Zealand (NZL) at the Asian Olympic Qualifier that begins today in Cairns.

Six hundred cubic metres of sand was brought in to create the 30m x 50m courts, which are surrounded by a 1000-seat temporary grandstand.

After winning the Oceania Continental Cup in Cook Islands last year, NZL had a bye past the semifinals directly to the Asian Continental Cup finals.

If the Kiwis win the Cairns event they will potentially qualify one team a place at the 2016 Rio Olympics or, if they place second or third, they will have the opportunity to travel to Russia to play a qualifier.

The winner of this tournament may earn a place for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Volleyball NZ has a meeting with NZOC Olympic Committee next week where a decision to include NZL Beach Volleyball in NZOC's team for Rio will be made.

In Cairns, the top-seeded New Zealand team of Watson and Sam O'Dea are seeded fourth from eight countries and face China in the quarterfinal.

If they progress past them they will probably face Australia in the semifinal and - if successful against them - could face either Qatar or Kazakhstan in the final.

The silver and bronze medallist will have an opportunity to compete against the other continental runners-up for the final Olympic two spots at a tournament in Sochi, Russia.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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