15 June 2021

London 2012: Bluffer’s guide to beach volleyball

May 31, 2012
London 2012: Bluffer's guide to beach volleyball

Beach Volleyball became an Olympic medal event at the 1996 Atlanta Games and has a reputation of being very popular with spectators due the combination of such fast-paced action, athleticism and great loud music.

It is one of the world’s most popular team sports with the main objective to stop the ball hitting the ground anywhere on your side whilst trying to make it hit the ground on your opponent’s side of the court.

Venue: Horse Guards Parade, near Buckingham Palace.

Date: 28 July – 12 August

Jargon buster

Husband and wife: When a serve is sent straight down the middle of the two opponents, in the hope of causing indecision between the pair.

Roof: A block that sends the spiked effort back down towards the opponent’s feet, giving them no chance of recovering it.

Dink: A shot played softly with the fingertips or knuckle, that either loops over an opponent’s block or lands without pace in an open space in the opponent’s court. Similar to a drop shot in tennis.

Tomahawk: An emergency defensive shot where both hands are used to hit the ball high above the head.

Basic rules

Teams of two players seek to ground the ball in the opponent’s half or make their opponents hit the ball out of bounds.

Both teams have three touches to return the ball, and neither player can take consecutive touches.  The players can use any part of their body to hit the ball, they just can’t catch or throw it.

Matches are played in a best-of-three-sets format. The first two sets are the first to 21 points, though a two-point lead is needed to win, and in the deciding set it is first to 15.

The players change sides every seven points, or every five in the third set and the two players rotate serve.

One to watch

Zara Dampney (defender) and Shauna Mullin (blocker) are Britain’s highest ranked pair, and are ranked 37th in the world.

Both girls took up indoor volleyball at their schools before switching to the beach event when the Olympic programme was set up after London won the bid in 2005. They are now full-time, lottery-funded athletes, spending much of the year on the world tour.

Olympic rivalry?

None as of yet as this is only the second time that GB will have competed in an Olympic Games – the first time was in Atlanta back in 1996 when we finished a creditable ninth.

Who’s the gold medal favourite?

The undisputed queens of the sand are US pair Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who became the first beach volleyball team to win back-to-back Olympic titles when they won a second gold in Beijing, the final match being their 108th straight victory in all competitions.

Also Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca, who are the current world champions and ranked number one in the world are amongst the favourites battling it out for gold.

Who to follow on twitter…



@shuvolleygb – Shauna Mullin

Beach Volleyball Olympic fact

In 1999 the FIVB said that female players must wear bikinis. The decision proved controversial with some players, including Britain’s Denise Johns, then the top player in the country, arguing the move was taken to make the sport sexy.

For London 2012 however the players are permitted to wear less revealing uniforms such as shorts and short sleeved tops, as the sport’s governing body seeks to respect various countries’ cultural beliefs.


Zara Dampney & Shauna Mullin give their thoughts ahead of the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball Test Event at Horse Guards Parade

The Women’s Sports Magazine



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