Team England will, for the first time, be sending both a men’s and women’s beach volleyball pair to compete in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next April.
Chris Gregory and Jake Sheaf have been chosen as the men’s pair with Victoria Palmer and Jess Grimson competing in the women’s pairs event.
Standing at 6’10” and 6’5” respectively, Gregory and Sheaf are British champions and have represented Great Britain at the 2015 European Games in Baku. The women’s pair of Palmer and Grimson are the number one ranked female pair in England and are making strides in various competitions in the build-up to Gold Coast 2018.
The Gold Coast will see beach volleyball contested for the first time in the Commonwealth Games. The pairs will have an opportunity to make English history by winning the nation’s first Commonwealth medal in the sport.
At the 2017 Bahamas Commonwealth Youth Games, Javier and Joaquin Bello won gold for England in the men’s pairs event setting the scene for success in Australia.
Team England’s pairs train in a purpose built facility in Bournemouth, the only indoor beach volleyball centre in the UK, where the temperature often drops below zero.
Chris Gregory said:
“It’s been a long time in the making, reaching a major Games like this, so to finally get there and know that we’re going to go is a relief and I’m just looking forward to it more than anything.
“Starting out in the sport a long time ago, I had no idea what the journey was going to be like and what experiences I would have. So to get to this point now, I feel a lot of pride putting on a Team England shirt and representing my country.
“I’m most excited about the fact that it’s a multi-sport Games and getting to be there as part of Team England. Being a collective and feeling like you’re part of a bigger picture is very inspiring and powerful and I’m looking forward to having that experience at the Commonwealth Games.”
Jess Grimson said:
“All the hard work we’ve put in from the very beginning has culminated to a point of competing at a major Games and for us this is our first opportunity so it would be an absolute dream.
“It’s huge that beach volleyball is on the programme and obviously beach volleyball is huge in Australia so it will be amazing. English beach volleyball isn’t really on the map so to have the Games televised and have people seeing England competing in beach volleyball there will be a bigger association with it being a proper sport and that we are hardworking athletes.”
Team England will send a team of around 600 athletes and staff in what will be England’s largest ever team to represent the nation in an overseas sporting event. The team will compete in 18 sports, including 38 para medal events.
Sarah Winckless, Chef de Mission for Commonwealth Games England, said:
"I am very pleased that both the women and the men will be representing Team England on the Gold Coast. It is great to see this sport included in the Commonwealth programme, and I look forward to seeing some great matches at the Coolangatta stadium, with the amazing back drop of the Gold Coast.
“Having worked with England’s Bello twins and their support team in the Bahamas as they took the first ever Commonwealth Youth Games title in their sport, they have set the bar high for future team England outfits.”
Team England Beach Volleyball Team Leader and sport psychologist, Dr Emma Kavanagh, is delighted to see beach volleyball in the spotlight and excited for what the athletes can achieve at the Games. She said:
“Preparation for the Commonwealth Games will focus on physical and mental conditioning, and playing in selected pre-Games tournaments for vital match experience. We will attend the Games as a team ready to compete and with significant aspirations.
“With optimal preparation, both teams have the chance to do extremely well at the Games and we are excited by the drive and the ambition of all athletes who will be representing their sport and country in April.
“All four athletes are driven and dedicated to their sport and that’s why they manage to handle the pressure of generating the finances to support their volleyball aspirations and perform on the court at an elite level. There is still the need to find sponsorship which would make a significant difference to how the teams prepare for the Games and how far they could go in the tournament.”
As part of its plans to send the best prepared team to the Gold Coast, Commonwealth Games England will hold a 10-day preparation camp in Brisbane, create a dedicated performance centre inside the Commonwealth Games Village, and offer a full programme of support services.
Team England’s preparation camp for the Gold Coast will include a number of specially selected high-performance sports and support facilities that will enable athletes to continue training and complete their final preparations prior to entering the Commonwealth Games Village.
The dedicated performance centre will be at the heart of Team England’s headquarters inside the Commonwealth Games Village. It will provide an enhanced environment in the Village for athletes, coaches and support staff, where the team will have access to dedicated doctors, physios and a full range of clinical, rehabilitation, preparation services, kit, equipment, stretching and R&R areas.