The debut of beach volleyball in the Commonwealth Games is testament to the relentless determination of one of Australia's greatest sports champions, Natalie Cook.
Although an Olympic sport for more than 20 years, beach volleyball was not on the program when the Gold Coast was first announced as the host city of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Cook, a five-time Olympian in beach volleyball, and the winner of gold (Sydney 2000) and bronze (Atlanta 1996) medals, took the omission of her beloved sport as a personal challenge.
“To have the Commonwealth Games at a place that has some of the best and most picturesque beaches in the world and not have beach volleyball on the program, it just didn't make sense,” Natalie says.
With a group of other die-hard believers, they rallied long and hard and last year had beach volleyball finally accepted as the 18th sport of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (host cities must include the 10 core Commonwealth Games sports – athletics, badminton, boxing, field hockey, lawn bowls, netball, rugby sevens, squash, swimming and weightlifting - then can add others to their program from a list of “optional” and “recognised” sports by the ruling Commonwealth Games Federation.
Natalie, the first Australian woman to compete in five Olympics, has always lived and competed according to her motto: “Believe in the power of your dreams”.
She believes beach volleyball will be one of the most-watched sports at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games with matches to be played in the shade of the iconic Norfolk pines on Coolangatta beach, in front of the local surf club, with the waves rolling across the world famous Kirra Point surfing break as the backdrop.
“It is such an amazing opportunity to play the great game of beach volleyball in front of a home crowd,” Natalie says.
“Drawing on my Sydney 2000 experience, I know that the athletes representing Australia are in for a treat!
“The beaches of the Gold Coast are iconic and to sit courtside watching the dynamic beach volleyball action, with a view of the ocean and a nice sea breeze will be spectacular.
“The whole event is a must-see. The entertainment on and off the court will be a crowd pleaser. The green and gold will be shining bright!”
She is quite simply is one of the greatest players the game of beach volleyball has ever seen.
In addition to her Olympic feats she also won silver and bronze at world championship levels.
Born in Townsville and schooled at Corinda High in Brisbane's west, Natalie was dux of her grade and took the first steps towards a career in medicine.
While studying, the 181cm natural athlete took up volleyball and instantly stamped herself as a star, captaining the Australian Junior Indoor team in 1992. The following year she took up beach volleyball and a true Australian champion was born.
Natalie lists Australian golfer Greg Norman and American basketballer Michael Jordan as among her sporting heroes. She is a keen golfer and also loves movies and reading.
Since retiring, Natalie has thrown her energies into her foundation Live Out Loud which seeks to reduce child obesity through education and providing opportunities for Australian youngsters to be active and better understand the importance of good nutrition.
She sees next year's Commonwealth Games on the beautiful Gold Coast – where there are on average 300 days of sunshine every year – as an ideal opportunity to inspire young Australians (and their parents) to turn off their electronic devices and get outside and be active.
“By providing a fun, engaging and inspiring environment, we encourage kids to be themselves while learning new skills,” Natalie says.
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Author: Geoff Stead
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