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Long johns instead of bikinis?

Oly beach volleyball likely to see both

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LONDON -- Two-piece or not two-piece: That is the question.

Chilly weather and evening matches at the London Olympics may force a coverup in beach volleyball -- from bikinis to long johns.

"We need it to keep our muscles warm," Australian competitor Tamsin Hinchley said Sunday. "It's an extremely strenuous sport."

Yes, but let's get real. Long sleeves and leggings aren't exactly the main draw for lots of beach volleyball fans.

Asked if she thought it would be a turnoff for some fans, Hinchley said no, she thought the atmosphere would still be rocking at Horse Guards Parade.

"The regulations are that it's tight-fitting, so if that's what you're there for, whatever."

Actually, they'll probably need it. Some beach volleyball matches are set to go late into the evening, when temperatures will drop.

And the gear has already been a common -- even if not entirely popular -- sight on the world beach volleyball tour this year. It's now part of the uniform, Hinchley said.

"Obviously we're that sport, we're the sport that wears the bikinis and we're the sport that's physically out there," she said. "But we're jumping and running and sliding on the sand. We'll be using it (cold-weather gear) to benefit us physically. We'll definitely be taking it."

Hinchley will partner with 2000 gold medallist Natalie Cook at the Olympics, where beach volleyball will be played at the ceremonial parade ground in central London that is more used to formal military displays featuring soldiers in scarlet buttoned jackets and bearskin hats.

The famous Horse Guards Parade location, as well as the skimpy bikinis, shorts and sleeveless T-shirts, will likely make it one of the hottest tickets.

Organizers hope the weather will co-operate as they try to bring a slice of sunny Santa Monica or Sydney's Bondi Beach to what has been a rainy central London.

Down the road from Big Ben, across the river from London Eye and a stone's throw from the prime minister's Downing Street residence, toned and tanned men and women will be diving across the 5,000 tonnes of sand imported from a quarry just outside the city.

Beach volleyball has grown rapidly since it became a medal event at the 1996 Atlanta Games. About 500,000 fans are expected for about 100 matches.

All that's needed now is some bikini weather.

-- The Associated Press

Looking forward to boos

THE Canadian beach volleyball duo of Marie-Andre Lessard and Annie Martin expect to have few fans when they open the Olympics on July 29 -- against Great Britain.

"If there are 15,000 people in the stadium, 14,999 will probably be cheering against us," said Lessard.

The Canadians enter the competition ranked 71st in the world, while Britain's Shauna Mullin and Zara Dampney are 70th.

"It's a privilege to play Great Britain first up," said Lessard. "Not everyone is going to get the opportunity to play in front of that crowd. We're both looking forward to it."

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2012 C6

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