Mariafe Artacho del Solar will be thrilling crowds on Copacabana Beach

Young Australians planning midnight raid on Copacabana Beach


YOUNG AUSTRALIANS PLANNING A MIDNIGHT RAID ON COPACABANA BEACH

Copacabana Beach at midnight sounds like the place to be if you’re in the mood for a party during the Rio Olympics.

At any other time, Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar would love to be enjoying the party themselves, except at midnight on the first full day of competition, the young Australians from Sydney’s Northern Beaches will be providing the entertainment.

It’s an incredible stage for Laird and del Solar to be making their Olympic debut.

“We can't really anticipate how much of a thrill our first match will be,” Laird said this week.

“It's a sold out stadium against the Americans, one of which is a 3-time gold medallist and we couldn't be more ready for the challenge and to soak it all up.”

The last six weeks have been an incredible journey for the current U23 World Champions. First they earned Australia an Olympic quota by helping seal a win at an Asian qualifier in Cairns.

Then they were officially announced as Australia’s second team for Rio, joining Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy on the plane for Brazil.

This week they touched down in Rio, ready to fulfill their dream.

“Rio has been awesome so far, we had an opportunity to check it out in February and we're staying in the same accommodation so everything is somewhat as expected,” Laird said.

“The AOC has done up the accommodation to have everything we could need, so it's as similar to the Olympic village as possible without the chaos, which makes it pretty easy to stay focused.

“We're making sure that we're keeping the integrity of our immediate team, while welcoming the rest of the Aussies on board in this awesome culture which has been created.”

The young Australians have found themselves in an interesting pool.

Three-time gold medallist, Kerri Walsh Jennings, and her partner, April Ross, are clearly the red hot favourites to top the group.

But the other two teams, like Laird and del Solar, are also making their Olympic debuts. Switzerland’s Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre, and China’s Fan Wang and Yuan Yue, are both ranked higher than the Australians and have more experience, but in the excitement of an Olympics, well, anything could happen.

Laird said she and del Solar are just trying to stay focused.

“I think for us at the moment, the most important part of the 'Olympic experience' is the performance,” she said.

“We have come so far, and put in so many hard yards to make it this far, and we are now here to perform at our highest.

“There's plenty of other things to enjoy and experience about the Olympic Games, but those are things for after we have finished with the job at hand.”