Earlier this week, two-time Olympian Louise Bawden received confirmation that she’d be making her third appearance at the Summer Games when she finished seventh in the world rankings for her sport alongside her partner, 23-year-old Olympic debutante Taliqua Clancy.
Rio 2016 marks a new career milestone for Bawden, who made her Olympic debut at just 19-years-old as part of Australia’s indoor volleyball team before later switching to beach volleyball to spectacular effect. Below, Lou talks to GRAZIA about taking career-defining risks and why the third time promises to be a charm in her pursuit of Olympic gold, in Copacabana – the home of her sport – no less.
“I remember waking up the morning that the Sydney games were announced and as soon as my mum told me, I got butterflies. I genuinely remember having butterflies before I’d even had a conscious thought – I was just so excited, and thought it was so fabulous that Sydney was going to host the Games. That feeling has always stayed with me. It’s really cheesy, but it’s 100 per cent authentic. When it was announced, I wasn’t playing an Olympic sport. I was a young netballer, very avid, and absolutely loved my netball skirt. Every week I would iron the pleats in so it looked perfect for Saturday morning, so it has always struck me as really interesting that my life played out in a way that I ended up being able to compete at the Sydney Games and go on to have a lot of great experiences in Olympic volleyball since then.
“I wasn’t a ‘beach volleyballer’ until quite late in my career, so it was a really big risk at 25-years-old, which isn’t particularly young for an athlete, to change paths [from indoor]. I left my newly-purchased apartment, my job and my home in Melbourne to relocate to Adelaide with only the promise of a chance to be on a training squad. I took that opportunity with both hands and from there I really pushed as hard as I could to achieve representation in London. It was definitely a risk that paid off.
“Looking forward to Rio, which will be my third Games, there are certain elements about competing where it’s beneficial to have had experience before as they’re completely unlike regular competitions. You’re put in an environment with distractions that are unique to the Olympic Games, so I’m glad to have that experience for my teammate [Taliqua Clancy], who’s competing in her first Games. It’s a bit of an advantage in that way.
“I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to compete in some really iconic locations: Sydney being the home Olympics, and the venue in London, Horse Guards Parade, was just so spectacular. Now we’re going to the home of the sport, in Copacabana Beach, so I think I’ve lucked it with the location and the timing. The Brazilians are definitely our greatest competition – they have the two highest ranked pairs and are the ones to beat, but they’re also facing a lot of home court pressure and a very vocal home crowd.
“Success now definitely looks like a gold medal. [Taliqua] and I have done a good job at continually growing and building our performance after three and a half years, and I really believe that there are no limits when we apply ourselves in that way. Our game is as good, if not better, than anyone out there when we’re playing at our best, so I’m really just keen to go and grab a medal at these Games.”
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