Mariafe Artacho del Solar has vivid memories of her introduction to beach volleyball at 12 years of age. It was a social tournament and she’d been persuaded to play by her older brother.
The venue was the iconic Manly Beach. For Mariafe, armed with skills honed playing indoor volleyball in her birth country Peru, it was a light-bulb moment that changed the course of her life.
She recalls, “We won the tournament. It was so much fun and I decided that this is what I wanted to do.”
Thirteen years later Mariafe is now preparing for a return to Manly Beach for the 3-star FIVB World Tour event. This is the biggest beach volleyball tournament staged in Australia since the Sydney Olympics.
Mariafe and playing partner Taliqua Clancy, currently ranked seventh in the world, won the World Tour event the last time it was staged in Manly in 2017.
The Manly Beach setting, it would appear, brings out the best in Mariafe, “I love playing in Manly. It’s my favourite beach. I get energy from the people of Manly when they watch me play.”
There has been plenty of success since that memorable win in 2017 with four victories on the World Tour and silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The World Championships loom in July in Germany with the ultimate target of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, fast approaching. Both have been there before but with different playing partners. Manly will be their first International tournament for the year with Olympic qualification points on offer.
“We are sitting in a good position as a team. We want to be in the top five in the lead-up to Tokyo,” says Mariafe.
Mariafe and Taliqua have been together in their current playing partnership since 2017. They had previously played together in 2012 when they won bronze at the World titles and Mariafe sees the partnership as working well, “We are a good partnership, we both have a different style of play.” As Mariafe lists the qualities of Taliqua, the respect she has for her playing partner is obvious, “She is competitive, agile, and she has speed and incredible physical skills. We are also great friends away from training and playing.”
It’s a good thing that they get on. Based in Adelaide on scholarship, they train up to eight hours a day, five days a week. There is little time for anything else.
There is also the relentless travel schedule of the World Tour, which comes with a personal toll, “It’s great travelling around the world and all the experience that comes with it, but it does get challenging at times, being away from loved ones for months throughout the year.” Which makes the World Tour event at Manly Beach even that more special. As Mariafe says, “I love playing at home in front of our family and friends!”
3 star FIVB World Tour Event: Manly Beach.
VolleyFest: 1st to 10th of March proudly supported by Destination NSW.