|March 08, 2004 - Australian Beach Volleyball legend Kerri Pottharst will come out of retirement for the second time to attempt to qualify for her third Olympic Games when the Brazil Open in Fortaleza opens the women's Swatch-FIVB World Tour on Tuesday.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medalist and bronze medalist in Atlanta 1996 has partnered fellow Australian Summer Lochowicz and entered qualifying for Fortaleza. According to Australian media their objectives are simple; play hard, enjoy the experience and qualify for the Athens Olympics in August. The first two sound easy enough but the last point, qualifying for Athens, is going to be the biggest challenge either of them will have faced in their respective careers.
Amazingly just six months ago both of these players were no longer playing on the international stage. Pottharst having retired in March of 2003 then returned for three events with Angela Clarke before unofficially retiring again in August following the Indonesian Open on the Swatch-FIVB World Tour. Summer's emerging career was dramatically halted when Team Australia Beach Volleyball (TABV) made the strategic decision midway through 2003 to pair Lochowicz's partner Kylie Gerlic with Angela Clarke for the remainder of the year. It left Lochowicz out in the cold and teetering on the edge of quitting the sport.
However Lochowicz, 25, saw a glimmer of hope in Pottharst, took a chance and called the 38-year-old. Two wins on their local Australian tour saw a wave of interest from the Australian media and fans alike regarding whether Pottharst and Lochowicz would, could or should make a run at the Athens Olympics. It all came down to the 2004 Beach Volleyball calendar. Qualifying rules dictate to be eligible for the Olympics a team must play a minimum of eight qualifying events together. So when the 2004 Swatch-FIVB World Tour calendar was released and showed the required eight events prior to the July 11th cutoff, it made the decision a little easier.
Of course with only the minimum quota of events available there is no room for error. Any injury, sickness or bad day at the office could end their dream. Is failure a possibility? Sure, but it's hard to see any sort of failure in combining Australia's most experienced Volleyball athlete with one of the nations' brightest young talents. No doubt if things don't go according to plan goals and objectives for the year will be re-assessed.
But what if they do make it? It would mean Sydney 2000 gold medalists Pottharst and Natalie Cook would be taking part in their third Olympic Beach Volleyball tournament, but this time on opposite sides of the net. For Summer it would be a dream come true.
The first step of the new campaign starts with qualifying for the Brazil Open.