The glamour side of beach volleyball hides the reality of what a tough sport it is to succeed in professionally.
Tauranga's two national champions and aspiring Olympians, Sam O'Dea, 25, and Mike Watson, 26, know all about doing the hard yards. They started playing the sport when they were at Otumoetai College and keeping their place on the world's elite professional tour has taken years of hard work and plenty of sacrifices.
But now they are tantalisingly close to their ultimate goal of representing New Zealand together at next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The second phase of the Olympic qualification process was held last month in Rarotonga, with the NZL number one team of O'Dea and Watson making it through to the final round of Olympic qualification in Australia next June. The number two team of Ben O'Dea and Jason Lochhead, who also went to Otumoetai College, can also clinch a Rio berth there.
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"I think we do have a great chance now it is getting pretty close. Winning that last tournament in Rarotonga has made us all pretty excited," O'Dea said. "We have a good team and we have a good culture which I think is really important. I was there last time (London) and so was Jason Lochhead, so I think we have some good experience this time for going forward.
"Me and Mike have been working on putting things in place to make sure we have the best shot possible. I think we do have a really good chance but it comes down to the day. We are going to do everything we can to make sure we are ready when that day comes."
O'Dea and Watson were awarded the TECT Team of the Year award at the Bay of Plenty Sports Awards held at ASB Arena on Friday night.
They clinched the title ahead of the other worthy finalists in Tauranga City United's Premier football team, Waihi Beach Surf Club's under-23 men's boat team, Tauranga Sports' premier rugby team and the Waikite women's rugby team.
"Travelling around the world is awesome but we definitely love coming home and playing back at the Mount beach is what we love doing the most," Watson said. "To win an award like this means a lot to us. Sam and I are so focused on our goal of making Rio we often forget what we actually have achieved so far, so it is kind of nice to look back and think we are on the right track and we are doing well."
O'Dea and Watson are back over summer. They will defend their titles at the Mount Maunganui Open on January 30-February 1 and the Bay of Plenty Times Volleyball NZ National Beach Champs on January 10-11.