Cook still setting the alarm in pursuit of London Olympic dream
Cook, the 2000 Olympic champion, has her sights set on one last Olympics at London 2012 before bowing out of the sport she has graced for 18 seasons.
Rome, Italy, June 13 – It is now 15 years since Natalie Cook helped make beach volleyball history, when along with Kerri Pottharst, the pair took the bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
As the women’s gold medal match and the men’s medal matches were scheduled for later in the program, it meant that the Australian duo were the first athletes to ever win an Olympic beach volleyball medal.
Now the 2000 Olympic champion has her sights set on one last Olympics at London 2012 before bowing out of the sport she has graced for 18 seasons.
“That’s why I’m here. Every day for practice I get out of bed to make myself fitter and stronger to go to the London Olympics and that is what everyone in this sport aspires to,” Cook said.
“I’ve been to four and number five would be the way to finish my wonderful career.” Tara West is Cook’s latest partner for the FIVB Swatch World Championships in Rome 2011 powered by smart.
The 25-year old is the sixth different partner in seven World Championships. Cook’s best performance was in 2003, when along with Nicole Sanderson she won the bronze medal.
“She’s only 25, she’s very new to beach volleyball and this is her first FIVB season and it is my 18th, so I obviously have the experience and she has the youth and enthusiasm and wants to learn so much about the sport,” she said.
“So between my coach Steve Anderson and I, she is getting all of the knowledge. With his 18 years and my 18 years, the poor kid is probably in overload right now. But it is a great journey and is all exciting for the London Olympics.”
Cook and West began Rome 2011 with a 21-14,21-15 defeat to Greek pair Vassiliki Arvaniti and Maria Tsiartsiani.
That the depth of the competition is so vast shows how much the sport has changed since Cook began her career and meant she has had to constantly develop as a player.
“The sport has become way, way, way, way, more professional,” Cook said. “When we used to play in 1994 there were three events, with $50,000 prize money. Now there’s millions of dollars. There’s more TV, there’s more and more teams having coaches. Everything is becoming more professional.
“I’ve had to challenge myself everyday to become a better person and a better athlete, which hasn’t always been easy, but you face things on the court when the other team is trying to exploit you weakness, so you have to come up with something that can win you volleyball matches. “
Nothing Cook does between now and retirement is likely to come anywhere near her proudest moment in the sport, when along with long-term partner Pottharst the pair won the 2000 Olympic gold on Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
“It was bright blue, beautiful day and to play against the Brazilians in front of 10,000 Aussie fans and win, it was like a dream,” she said.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any more perfect. We played well, they played well and I think they were under a lot of pressure. The crowd really lifted us and took us over the line and I still remember it like it was yesterday. “
Cook first took up beach volleyball seriously in 1993 after captaining the Australian junior volleyball team in 1992.
She turned her back on medical studies to go full time and has no regrets over choosing a bikini and a pair of sunglasses over a lab coat and stethoscope.
“It is the greatest lifestyle is beach volleyball. It’s summer, it’s some of the best beaches in the world, in some of the best stadiums in the world, like here in Rome,” she said.
“I couldn’t imagine being a rower and having to get up at four in the morning on icy rivers. I couldn’t imagine being a football player and playing in the pouring rain in zero degrees. I think I’ve chosen the best sport for me, a bikini and a beach. “
Click here to see Cook speak about the London Olympics and the FIVB Swatch World Championships Rome 2011 powered by smart: