Beach volleyball star and Olympic medal hopeful Mariafe Artacho del Solar has revealed how one of Australia’s most inspirational sporting stories is fuelling her bid to take home a gold medal at the Tokyo Games.
One of Australia’s proudest moments in Olympic Games history was the moment Nat Cook and Kerri Pottharst won gold in the 2000 Olympics, a moment which later saw the beach volleyball pair awarded with the Medal of the Order of Australia.
Now, 21 years later, Artacho del Solar, along with her partner Taliqua Clancy, are a hot chance to bring home a medal after winning gold at the third and final Beach Volleyball World Tour 4-star event in Mexico earlier this year.
While she may have been just eight years old at the time of Cook and Pottharst’s famous Olympic triumph, the 27-year-old revealed how the duo have inspired her.
Given she was living in her country of birth of Peru at the time, it’s a remarkable story that involves her auntie and a postcard.
“I was in Peru at that time and I suppose I had no idea about the Olympics,” she told Wide World of Sports.
“It wasn’t until my auntie came to Peru to visit us and she brought a postcard that had Nat Cook and Kerri Pottharst on it after they had just won their gold, and they dedicated the postcard to my sister who was actually the one playing and representing Peru. Obviously, at that stage, I was eight.
“My auntie, she got Nat Cook and Kerri Pottharst to dedicate this postcard to my sister saying ‘go for gold, always follow your dreams.’
“That was the very first taste of Olympics I got and of who they were.
“It wasn’t until I came to Australia in 2004 when I was 11 that I got to meet Nat and Kerri, and that’s when it all connected and I started playing beach volleyball and I said ‘this is what I want to do, I want to be like them, I want to win gold and go to the Olympics’.”
Artacho del Solar said her team’s unsuccessful trip during Rio 2016, which saw the pair not win a single match, has inspired her ever since to “work hard” and aim for bigger and better things in Tokyo.
“Rio was definitely an amazing experience,” she said.
“It obviously motivated me to come back home and work hard – it taught me what it took to be on top and get the podium and be an Olympic medallist.
“We’ve really used this time wisely and trained really hard. Taliqua and I, we teamed up in 2013, so technically we haven’t played together for that long.
“We’ve grown up as a team and individuals. I’m excited about what we can achieve and how far we can take the team.
“Looking back at Rio, It was a really good experience but now it’s go-time, it’s business time and 100 per cent we believe we can go for gold now.”
Artacho del Solar is a YoPRO athlete and spoke to Wide World of Sports on behalf of her partnership with the company.
“I’m super grateful and super lucky to be part of the YoPro team and obviously I’ve been having that nutrition and recovery with YoPro products,” she said.
“They’ve helped me fulfil my Olympic journey. I’ve absolutely loved working with them.”
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