The sport of beach volleyball originated in the 1950s and will, for the first time, be an Olympic event in the Summer 1996 Olympic Games. Canadians John Child and Mark Heese have a chance at a medal. They are currently ranked fifth worldwide.
History of Volleyball
In the early 1990s, John Child and Mark Heese headed for the beach. They went not to surf or swim, but to play volleyball-mainly to keep fit for the indoor game, their real passion at the time. Three years ago, however, after the International Olympic Committee announced that beach volleyball would be a medal sport at the Atlanta Games, the two Toronto athletes began devoting themselves exclusively to the beach game, and have since battled their way to fifth spot in the world rankings. Later this month, they hope to complete their rapid rise by winning an Olympic medal. “We’ve competed against 22 of the 24 teams that will be in Atlanta and we’ve been on the podium five times, so we have a chance,” said Child. “But if we play anything less than our best, it will be difficult.”
To reach the podium again, Child, 29, and Heese, 26, will have to upset top-ranked teams from the United States and Brazil. They are the two powerhouses in a sport that first gained popularity in the early 1950s in southern California and Rio de Janeiro, attracting a core of dedicated amateurs and die-hard fans who loved sun, surf, sand and beautiful tans on equally beautiful bodies. Like the indoor game, the beach version is played on a 30-foot-by-60-foot court, but teams are composed of just two players, compared with six indoors. Since the late 1980s, the sand sport has taken off, bringing commercial sponsors, professional circuits and television contracts. American champ Karch Kiraly has piled up career earnings of more than $2 million. In Atlanta, ticket buyers eager to see hard bodies and hard spiking made beach volleyball an early sellout.
Inevitably, the sport has also attracted talented athletes from cold-weather countries. Along with Child and Heese, Canada is sending two other teams to the Games: Torontonians Marc Dunn, 30, and Ed Drakich, 33, and Margo Malowney, 28, of Mississauga, Ont., and Barbara Broen-Ouellette, 31, of Edmonton. The fact that neither duo is considered a medal contender has not dampened their enthusiasm. “It’s going to be spectacular,” said Malowney. “My only fear is that it will be so hot, we’ll be melting.” (more…)