Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar hope they can inspire Australia’s next generation of beach volleyballers, having ridden a nine-year rollercoaster to a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Aussie duo still made it to the dais, but the gold medal was out of grasp as they lost in straight-sets to Ross and Klineman.
Ross and Klineman prevailed 21-15 21-16, taking 43 minutes to cap a dominant tournament in which they only dropped a single set and had the luxury of six championship points.
Indigenous trailblazer Clancy and Peru-born Artacho del Solar both expressed mixed emotions after collecting Australia’s first Olympic medal in the sport since Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst’s unforgettable gold on Bondi Beach.
But the duo, who both cite Sydney 2000 as pivotal motivation, were aware of the bigger picture.
“We go from being super proud to feeling a bit low,” Clancy said.
“It’s still a loss and we really wanted to get gold.
“It’s great we were able to get Australia back into a beach volleyball final.
“Grateful for Kerri and Nat to help inspire us to get here.
“Hopefully we can inspire the next generation.”
Clancy and Artacho del Solar first teamed up in 2012, delivering Australia a Continental Cup win that ensured Cook qualified for her fifth Olympics.
They made their Olympic debuts at Rio 2016 with different partners.
Both indicated they were keen for some downtime and family time before making any decisions about the future, wanting to soak up the medal after a sapping five-year cycle.
But they are already looking forward, with Artacho del Solar adding “this is just the beginning for us, we can’t wait for what’s ahead”.
“Yeah, three years? Not long, pretty close. We’ll be back,” Clancy said.
The Australians trailed a remarkable path to their gold-medal decider, including a quarter-final boilover against Canada’s reigning world champions.
Clancy grew up more than 200 kilometres from the ocean in the rural Queensland town of Kingaroy, where she was glued to the TV for Cathy Freeman’s 400m triumph in Sydney.
The proud Wulli Wulli and Goreng Goreng woman excelled at athletics and netball before discovering indoor volleyball at high school.
Clancy relocated to Brisbane to attend the Queensland Academy of Sport; she initially hated beach volleyball but came to love it while learning from and working for Cook.
Artacho del Solar shifted to Sydney at the age of 11; her family were in South America when they received a signed postcard of Cook and Pottharst’s crowning glory that carried an inspirational message from the gold medallists.
The Australians were under the pump early on Friday, trailing 7-2 in the opening set.
They started the second set with more composure and aggression, winning the first two points before the Americans surged to a 10-2 lead then secured gold when Artacho del Solar’s serve went wide.
“It didn’t feel dominant, we have to work so hard to win points against the Australian team,” Klineman said after her first Olympics, harbouring no regrets about switching from indoor to beach volleyball in 2017.
“That team has given us a lot of trouble in the past.”
Switzerland’s Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich claimed bronze.
Boxing bronze in the bag
Also on Friday, Australian lightweight boxer Harry Garside won a brilliant bronze medal after losing his semi-final match to Cuba’s Andy Cruz.
The 24-year-old Victorian was guaranteed Australia’s first medal in the sport in 31 years before he entered the ring.
Although he missed out on silver – Garside gave it a darn good crack and was up against the two-time World Champion.
Aussie gold still up for grabs
Silver and bronze are nothing to scoff at, but there’s still plenty of opportunities for Aussies to top the podium on day 14 of the Tokyo Games.
Australia was ranked fourth on the medal tally on Friday afternoon, with 17 gold, six silver and 19 bronze.
With most of the country in lockdown, there’ll be millions of fans cheering from home on Friday night as Australia’s top athletes make five more grabs at gold.
From 5.30pm, walk don’t run to catch Jemima Montag, Katie Hayward and Rebecca Henderson in action as they bring the power to the 20-kilometre race walk.
At 6.15pm, Aussie cycling duo Georgia Baker and Annette Edmonson will take on the Izu Velodrome, pushing through the women’s madison with eyes on a glittering victory.
Bringing laser focus and mega grit, Marina Carrier has been smashing her way through the modern pentathlon, with the medal decider kicking off from 8.30pm.
But don’t go to bed early, because the javelin final begins at 9.50pm and Australians Kelsey-Lee Barber, Mackenzie Little and Kathryn Mitchell are sure to shine.
As if that wasn’t enough, Team Australia will complete it’s battle for day 14 gold with Jessica Hull and Linden Hall both running in the women’s 1500-metre final from 10.50pm.
Hull and Hall have already impressed during the heats and semi-finals, but their biggest challenge will come from Dutch superstar Sifan Hassan, who is chasing an unprecedented 1500-5000-10,000 metres treble in Tokyo.