Sport Australian pair shocks top seeds Canada for passage into beach volleyball medal matches

Australian pair shocks top seeds Canada for passage into beach volleyball medal matches

Mariafe Artacho del Solar spikes the ball past Canada’s Sarah Pavan in Tuesday night’s quarter-final upset. Photo: Getty
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Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy are on the cusp of securing Australia’s first Olympic medal in beach volleyball since 2000, having shocked their quarter-final opponents at Tokyo’s Shiokaze Park.

Artacho del Solar and Clancy defeated Canada’s reigning world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 21-15 19-21 15-12 on Tuesday night, taking 56 minutes to advance to the semi-finals.

The boilover means the Australians will face Latvia’s world No.15 combination of Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka in Thursday’s semi.

Victory in that contest would give them a chance to follow in the footsteps of Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst, whose unforgettable gold medal came on the sands of Bondi, while defeat will mean a bronze-medal match awaits.

Artacho del Solar and Clancy celebrated jubilantly after becoming Australia’s first Olympic pairing to reach the final four since 2004 – and understandably so given the nature of their upset.

Few outside Australia expected the duo, who first teamed up in 2012 then competed alongside different partners while making their Olympic debuts at Rio 2016, to topple the top-ranked team remaining in the tournament.

But the underdogs showed how much they have improved since losing the 2018 Commonwealth Games final between the same two pairings.

Clancy’s tone-setting block won the first point on offer.

The proud Wulli Wulli woman from Kingaroy proceeded to help her side snatch a 5-1 lead and, ultimately, take the first set off the Canadians at this event.

A shell-shocked Pavan and Humana-Paredes called a time-out while leading 12-11 in the second set then successfully steadied, sending the match to a deciding set.

But it was Artacho del Solar, who emigrated to Australia from Peru at age 11, and Clancy who exhibited more composure when it mattered most.

Australia led 3-1, 8-4 then 12-7 in the third set, failing to show many nerves in a sign that bodes well for their medal prospects.