Whether it be at the beaches of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil or at Shepparton’s Victoria Park Lake, Nikki Laird will continue to embark on her dream of becoming the world’s best beach volleyball player.
Since growing up in North Shore, NSW, beach volleyball has taken the Olympian across the globe and Shepparton is just another destination en route to glory.
‘‘We do travel a lot and that is one of the perks,’’ Laird said.
‘‘We go to places that people probably would never have heard of, but that is what we have to do if we are to challenge ourselves against the best.’’
Laird competed against the best at the Rio Olympics last year, after qualifying alongside partner Mariafe Artacho del Solar, and the former could not contain her excitement when looking back on the event.
‘‘It was really amazing, especially being in Brazil where they all love their beach volleyball,’’ Laird said.
‘‘I could not have asked for a better place to start my Olympic career.’’
As a talented junior Laird always had aspirations of becoming an Olympian, but never knew which sport it would be in.
And to her credit she would never have died wondering; the 191cm athlete tried a host of sports including diving, field hockey, athletics, cross country and gymnastics to name a few.
‘‘I did all the wrong sports for my attributes,’’ Laird said.
‘‘I was too tall for diving at age 11 and all the other sports were just not for me, so I am lucky I found beach volleyball.’’
The under-23 world champion had no intentions of playing beach volleyball and as a fate would have it, her friend invited her along to a session and the decision to attend has changed her life.
‘‘I just stumbled across it. One of my old hockey teammates dragged me along and ever since then I fell in love with it,’’ Laird said.
‘‘I was no good at the start, but with practise I began to see that I could achieve some exciting things in this sport.’’
Based out of Adelaide, Laird was excited about heading to Shepparton.
‘‘To be honest, I had never heard of Shepparton before the announcement,’’ Laird said.
‘‘Although by all reports, the town is getting behind it, so if people come down and support it, the weekend should be super.’’
Despite not actually playing at a beach, the volleyballer surprisingly said this was the case more often than not.
‘‘It is actually a rarity for us to play on a beach, Fort Lauderdale in Florida is only one of few tournaments where we do,’’ Laird said.
‘‘Although we are generally within a few kilometres of a beach, so it is a little different playing this far away.’’
Like most athletes, Laird is superstitious when it comes to match day, if her nails are not on point, her seating position is incorrect or if she has the wrong bikini, who knows what could happen?
‘‘I need to have my nails painted going into a game and if I have a good game in one set of bikinis I will want to wear those ones again,’’ Laird said.
‘‘It is little things like that, but it is the same with most athletes, we have our routines.’’