Second beach volleyball team for Rio secured

Australia has qualified a second women’s beach volleyball team for the Rio Olympics, after beating Vanuatu in a nail-biting final at the Asian Continental qualifiers in Cairns.

But Australia will once again be without a men’s team at the Olympics after they lost a bronze medal playoff against Kazakhstan.

Selectors will now need to decide which two beach volleyballers they will nominate to the Australian Olympic Committee, after first Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar, and then Becchara Palmer and Phoebe Bell, beat their Vanuatu opponents to book Australia’s Rio ticket.

Lair and del Solar had the task of overcoming Vanuatu’s top team, Miller Pata and Linline Matauata, who missed out on direct qualification for Rio by just one place, and who disposed of the highly rated Chinese team in the semi-finals.

In heavy rain Vanuatu took the opening set, but Australia fought back to win the second and then held on in a nail-biting third set to win 19-17.

It means Australia will once again have two women’s teams at the Olympic Games, after Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy qualified by finishing the world tour ranked in the top 15.

There was disappointment for the men’s team, with their Olympic dream over after losing to Kazakhstan in the bronze medal playoff.

Australia had to win to book a place at the final Olympic play-offs in Sochi in a fortnight, but after being locked at one each after pool play, Australia’s Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa was not able to win a rematch against Kazakhstan’s Alexey Sidorenko and Alexandr Dyachenko.

Qatar will have a beach volleyball team at the Olympics for the first time, after they beat China 2-0 in the gold medal play-off.

The results mean China and Kazakhstan in the men, and Vanuatu and China in the women, will travel to Sochi in a fortnight for one last opportunity to qualify for Rio.