Anna Scarlett might be close to the most driven sportsperson in New Zealand - and she's also one of the more outspoken.

She loves beach volleyball, but she's also not afraid to give it a serve when she feels it deserves it, like at the Olympics when dancers wearing even less than the athletes entertained the crowds between sets.

"I am completely disgusted by that," she emphasises. "There's no other sport that has girls in tiny little bikinis dancing for the crowds. It really degrades the sport."

She wouldn't take it so hard if she didn't really love the sport that she hopes will take her and Susan Blundell - somewhat tackily dubbed the Twin Towers - to London in 2012.

"It's a really skilful sport. The more I've learned about it, the more tactics you learn ... I love it, I really love it.

"Hopefully more and more people are starting to take a ball down to the beach and are beginning to understand it is a lot harder than it looks and does require an athleticism and some talent."

Unfortunately though, Scarlett suspects most still view it as a "spectator" sport and issues like the maximum size of their bikini bottoms, for example, don't help. Not only do they shift the focus from sport to sex, but she believes it acts as a huge deterrent for some talented female players.

"People always ask about the bikini. At the end of the day we play in a sports top and the bottoms you get to choose [as long as they don't exceed a couple of inches at the sides]. If you choose to play in one that looks like a g-string, it's the players choice, they haven't been forced to. Bikini bottoms are the most comfortable thing to play in so I don't know how you get around that in terms of image.

"The way image is so hard on kids these days, to get out there in a bikini is pretty intimidating. I'm sure it puts a lot of people off."

It put her off initially.

"In my first year of beach volleyball, being a South Island girl, I refused to play in a bikini. I wore bike shorts. The first pair of bikini bottoms I wore were quite massive and after a while someone politely suggested I go smaller size, because it looked like I was playing in granny undies. I was appreciative of that honesty, eventually.

"There is a self-consciousness though and I think it is a huge deterrent for young girls in New Zealand, particularly in the South island where you're not as used to spending time on the beach in bikinis as you might be in the North Island.

"But there are all shapes and sizes on the world tour. It is incredible."

There is often comment that, in the interests of equality, the guys should have to play in Speedos. Scarlett has seen a few of them training in "their budgie smugglers" and does not believe the world is ready for such a spectacle yet.

For Scarlett, there are more pressing matters at hand. This weekend she is playing the New Zealand Open with Blundell, before planning another assault on the world tour.

The 16-event circuit starts in Brazil in April and finishes in Phuket, Thailand, in November.

It is a gruelling, hand-to-mouth and sometimes dispiriting existence. Being ranked 33rd in the world means Scarlett and Blundell still have to play qualifying tournaments to make the 32-team main draw (the first 24 teams get automatic entry and the rest compete for the remaining eight spots).

Both are still completely committed to London 2012 and things are looking a lot more promising than a year ago.

"Yeah, well, we've gone from off the scale in terms of our ranking to 62nd at the start of last year and 33rd at the start of this year. We're making main draws consistently, we're still having to qualify, but we're at the top of the qualification draw.

"This year, hopefully, we might be in the main draw to start off with. Once you get in there it's a lot easier. You have two lives and we know when we get in there we will start to win games consistently. It's just breaking into that which is hard."

On the world tour last year, Scarlett and Blundell failed to make the 32-team cut just once, in the famous beach-resort paradise of Poland.

"That was a blow out. Damn Poland, that's twice in a row we have not qualified there."

Poland, as it happens, is a good example of why the beach volleyball circuit is not as glamorous and sun-drenched as you would imagine.

"The event was at a place called Stare Jablonki, which is in the middle of nowhere. It's like a two-and-a-half hour car trip from the closest airport. If you've ever been to Poland you will know they are crazy drivers - they overtake while cars are coming the other way, the roads are terrible and they drive like they don't care about anything else on the road.

"It's not a cheerful place to play. I wouldn't say I've seen many smiles there."

For a while there, Scarlett and Blundell were smiling through gritted teeth, no matter where they were playing. With prize money far from guaranteed, they rely heavily on private sponsors.

Last year a combination of LG and money from Sparc's contestable funding pot paid their way.

This year they are looking for another sponsor so they can at least hire a coach.

"We have basically been coaching ourselves and relying on people to help us in their own time free of charge."

It helps that Scarlett's boyfriend is strength and conditioning coach Craig Harrison, whose training help is free.

"We're getting there, we're pretty good at budgeting," Scarlett says.

"I've always had gorse pockets. We've migrated into certain jobs among ourselves and I'm certainly the money controller and Suze is in charge of transport."

The qualified, non-practising physio admits she sometimes misses the world-famous-in-New Zealand profile of netball but feels recognition for her sport is slowly increasing.

A place at the Olympics - dancing girls on the sideline or not - should help the cause.