Shauna Mullin has travelled the globe in pursuit of her beach volleyball dreams, but admits Portobello has a special place in her heart.
The South African-born player returns to home sand this weekend to play for Scotland in the second round of the CEV Continental Cup.
Mullin can scarcely believe that Edinburgh has been awarded an international beach competition for the first time.
She first played at Portobello with Team Edinburgh colleague Jen Thom (a reserve this weekend) where she developed her skills and last played in 2006 with Mel Coutts (Scotland women’s coach this weekend).
She will partner Anneka Hastings, while Lynne Beattie and Gillian Lyall make up the other team. They face England, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Then, it was off to Bath as part of the full-time Great Britain set-up which ultimately led to playing on Horse Guards Parade with English partner Zara Dampney in front of a television audience of millions at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
But Mullin has no illusions about playing on the Copacabana Beach in two years – she quit the full-time international circuit after London 2012.
But the 30-year-old admits that successfully negotiating the first round in Slovenia earlier this summer with partner Anneka Hastings – another indoor team-mate from her Team Edinburgh days – has rekindled her love affair with the game.
“Going into Slovenia, I said to Anneka, ‘Let’s just have fun’, and she was happy with that,” Mullin explained, “but from the first whistle I had to win. It was the strangest situation which I wasn’t prepared for. It has definitely rekindled my enthusiasm – I love beach volleyball. I love being on the sand, problem solving and competing.
“In terms of ever going back on tour – being a professional beach volleyball player is definitely the world’s best job, but at this stage of my life I am definitely loving my new challenge working at Santander.”
With her father in the hotel trade, Mullin moved around a lot when she was growing up, but the family located to Edinburgh in 1999 and she attended Mary Erskine School as well as started to lay down her volleyball roots.
She won 14 indoor caps for Scotland before a trip to the World Student Games to play beach convinced her there could be a future playing outdoors. With London being awarded the Olympics, it was a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity and Mullin and Dampney helped put the beach game on the map in this country, scoring a memorable win over Canada in London.
“The best memory of 2012 is still definitely listening to the crowds while we were in the tunnel waiting to come out on court against Canada in our opening match,” she recalled.
“During that match, our coach had told me that if the left side player comes into the middle of the court unexpectedly, she will poke the ball back to the line. I blocked that ball in the third set and it really changed the momentum of the game giving us the opportunity to take it.”
Lynne Beattie, Great Britain’s Olympic indoor captain, is playing with Troon Team Ayrshire’s Gillian Lyall in Scotland’s other women’s pairing this weekend with teams from England, Ireland and Northern Ireland also looking to make the third round. Mullin’s experience is likely to prove crucial and she has been passing on vital tips to her team-mates.
“I think apart from the technical advice I’ve passed on for blockers (having played as a blocker for six years) I’ve said it’s so important to have fun as you’ll find if you’re relaxed you’ll jump higher, dive further and be able to feel more of the court when you’re attacking to know where the open spaces are.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase beach volleyball in Edinburgh. It’s amazing for Scottish volleyball to add an Olympic qualifier to their list of honours as hosts of the Continental Cup.
“Although I have no home in Edinburgh and my parents are still off travelling in far flung places, I will always consider Edinburgh my home.
“I wish I had the accent to back it up! It’s where I settled before and after travelling for two-thirds of my life.”
Scotland’s men– Robin Miedzybrodzki and partner Sean Cook, and Jamie McHardy and Graham Riddle – come up against Slovakia, Northern Ireland and Ireland this weekend, also hoping to use home sand to their advantage.