Australian men aim to break drought in Tokyo

Beach volleyballer Damien Schumann is confident the structure is in place to ensure Australia breaks an eight-year drought and qualifies a men’s team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Australia fell just short of qualifying a men’s team for the London and Rio Olympics, but Schumann, who returned to the international tour with partner Josh Court this week, is confident 2020 will be a different story.

“In 2012 the Australian men’s team at the time were a few points away from going to London in a golden set,” Schumann said.

“This year unfortunately we lost in a semi-final to China and to Kazakhstan. The Continental Cup tournaments are pretty cut throat, and on the day we fell short.

“While we all continue to work hard to be a force in Asia, and the world, Volleyball Australia is doing the right things by putting on a strong National tour, hosting international events, and spreading the funding around to different athletes.

“I feel things are being put in place to get more Australian men’s team on the World Tour to gain invaluable experience, which is going to be so important for the Australian men in the lead up to Tokyo.”

Andrew Schacht and Joshua Slack were Australia’s last men’s team at an Olympics, reaching the round of 16 in Beijing in 2008.

Australian women have had teams at every Olympics since the sport’s introduction in 1996, winning gold in Sydney through Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst.

There were two Australian women’s teams in Rio, with Taliqua Clancy and Louise Bawden reaching the quarter finals stage.

Schumann and Court were one of the Australian teams vying for a place in Rio, but after dominating the domestic competition, were unable to secure the wins at the Continental qualifiers in Cairns.

The pair were back on the World Tour this week, competing at the Long Beach Grand Slam in the US.

Schumann and Court lost their pool matches against teams from Poland, Brazil and USA, but Schumann said the experience was invaluable as the pair eye off the introduction of beach volleyball at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“We are definitely staying together,” Schumann said.

“We love representing Australia and doing it on such a big stage such as the Commonwealth Games would be awesome.

“Being able to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam is so valuable because we get to compete against the best teams in the world, and while we definitely match it with them at times, it still shows us areas we can be more consistent in.

“We’ve got lot of things to work on over the next few months.”