Cook (left) and Pottharst topped the podium at Sydney 2000
Rio de Janeiro, August 17, 2016 – Over the next two days at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games two new sets of Olympic beach volleyball champions will be crowned at the Copacabana Beach Arena.
On Wednesday Brazil’s world champion duo of Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas will face European champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany. A day later on Thursday in the men’s gold medal match the world champions again meet the European champions, in this case when Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt take on Italian duo Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai.
Two people who knows what it takes to win Olympic gold are Australian duo Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook who topped the podium at Sydney 2000. Like the two Brazilian pairs they were going for home gold on a world-famous beach, in their case Bondi.
They delivered by defeating Brazil’s Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar in front of a screaming Bondi crowd, one of 16 golds the Australian Olympic team won at their home Games.
“It take a lot of composure especially with the pressure they are under here. Playing in your home country, it is difficult, but amazing,” Pottharst said. “You have to turn all the negatives into positives and that is what Natalie and I did.
“We turned perceived pressure of competing in our country into a positive. It nearly floored us in our first match, but we dealt with it by talking to other Australian athletes who had the same experience of winning away from home.
“We always looked at other champions and asked how they were doing things and took on board those sort of characteristics.”
Cook and Pottharst had made their mark at Atlanta 1996 when they won bronze. They played together until 2002 and both competed at Athens 2004 with their new partners.
Pottharst retired at the end of the 2004 season, but Cook continued on through Beijing 2008 and then qualified for London 2012, her final competition before retiring.
For many years after their victory on Bondi they would meet on the anniversary of their gold medal and toast their success by the beach.
With beach volleyball set to feature on the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games a whole new legion of fans will become aware of their greatest moment, one that they are regularly reminded off when they meet fans and former rivals at Rio 2016.
“It is every emotion you ever feel in your life at once,” Cook said. “Everything on the spectrum from relief to sadness and everything through to joy and excitement.
“It culminates in every emotion in the spectrum. It is the greatest moment, especially at home.”