Volleyball: City star has earned Games place

Shauna Mullin
Shauna Mullin
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Shauna MULLIN’S gamble to extend her horizons has been rewarded with a beach volleyball place at London 2012.

Six years ago, the sands shifted in British volleyball when London’s successful Olympic bid meant full-time funding for indoor and beach programmes for the first time.

Mullin, a full Scotland indoor international after helping City of Edinburgh to two Scottish League titles, tried out for the indoor squad.

But she was already eyeing opportunities on the beaches after playing on the Urban City beach tour at Princes Street Gardens with Mel Coutts.

Coutts, who still plays on the Scottish and English beach circuit as well as leading City of Edinburgh to the league and cup indoor double this season, is delighted at the success of her former partner.

“There was never any question of Shauna and I trying out for the Olympic squad,” she revealed, “I think we’d taken the partnership as far as we could.

“I did attend one British session in Alicante a few years back but Shauna was committed to going full-time at the centre at Bath and I just felt it was not what I wanted at my stage, when I was 34-35.

“But Shauna fully deserves this chance as she has worked really hard for it and made a lot of sacrifices.”

Mullin has since travelled the world with English partner Zara Dampney amassing world ranking points and the pair were confirmed as the host nation’s Olympic pairing on the iconic Horse Guards Parade.

Ranked 37th in the world, Mullin and Dampney, who finished fifth at last year’s Olympic Test event at the venue, will now go into the July 19 draw which will take place in Klagenfurt, Austria, a stop-off of the FIVB world circuit. Mullin, born in Johannesburg and who spent her early childhood in Penang, is used to travelling with a father in the hotel trade. But she put down roots in Edinburgh where she went to school at Mary Erskine.

Mullin is aware that beach volleyball has not been treated as a serious Olympic sport in some quarters and yet it is likely to be one of the showcase events of the Games.

At 27, is certainly in the shape of her life after an intensive training and competitive programme which has involved a winter spent on the beaches of Australia and New Zealand and a tournament schedule that has seen her in America, Brazil, China, France and Russia in recent weeks.

“I used to have bad ankles playing indoors but because the sand is more forgiving, it has helped as there is not so much impact,” she pointed out. “We are very strong because of our strength and conditioning programme and we don’t really have weak knees or bad backs.

“We work really hard to develop all our little muscles on our shoulders, knees and hips - we’ve put the hard work in to make sure we’re strong and can withstand the load we’ve having to deal with. We undergo a lot of testing in pre-season. We have absolutely horrendous tests on a treadmill which then gives us all the data about our fitness.

“Our strength and conditioning coach can look at this and see what parts of our fitness need more work, whether it’s long endurance runs or faster interval training.

“We do a lot of cardio-based fitness on the treadmills. Occasionally, we’ll take it onto the sand and incorporate a ball session.”

Mullin hugely enjoyed the experience of playing in front of a home support at last year’s Test event with matches played out in front of crowds of 1,500. That will swell to 15,000 for the Games.

Having played on all sorts of different sand over the last few years, London’s custom-built court holds no fears. On our tour, there are not many tournaments on the beach,” she explained.

“Last year, we played on an actual beach only once or twice out of 13 events.

“Most of the events are coming to city centres or built-up areas to make the game more accessible. The sand can change a lot – some is really fine and so slips away from under your feet and is heavier and deeper to jump in and other sand can be firmly packed. So it’s just a case of getting used to it.”

Mullin added: “Competing at the Olympics has always been a dream of mine and at the end of July my dreams are coming true. Being selected to represent Team GB and be part of what is going to be the best Olympics ever is a huge honour.”