Vanuatu will make history on 2 July when they become the first Pacific team to compete at the Beach Volleyball World Championships
Oceania winners Miller Elwin and Henriette Iatika have spent the past few weeks in Europe acclimatising ahead of the competition in Poland.
Head coach Lauren McLeod told Vinnie Wylie that just being there is a massive achievement, especially after failing to qualify for the Olympics.
LAUREN MCLEOD: After missing out on London last year we had to regroup the programme and set some new focuses and really come back together. We've struggled financially a lot this year, but due to the hard work and effort of the programme pulling together we've been able to get here and the girls have worked really hard on the sand to be able to maintain our points and keep our performance level high enough throughout the time on the sand and off the sand, so we can qualify on merit.
VINNIE WYLIE: You've had a few efforts on the world tour so far, but have struggled to get out of qualifying. Has that been a challenge not being able to get a lot of top-level competition leading into this tournament?
LM: Yeah, definitely. The better the teams you can compete against, the more competitive we can be when it comes to international tournaments. And we haven't had a lot of opportunity to travel outside the island or do a lot of training camps due to just lack of funding.
VW: In terms of those events on the World Series, whilst the results haven't been so great over the past six months in terms of getting to the main draw, you did have a bit of success last year making a couple of really good runs on those tournaments. So even though you perhaps haven't had so much match time in recent months, does that give you confidence that you can pull something out of the bag?
LM: Yeah, absolutely. With the lead-up events this year, we're not disappointed at all with the first two events because we played really well in China and we had tough matches both first rounds of the qualification. And both first rounds we ended up losing in three sets by narrower and narrower margins. We know that we're in good shape and we've been training hard for the last few weeks. So for the world championships it's pool play, so anything can happen.
VW:And you've obviously arrived in Poland ahead of the start of the tournament on monday having a training camp in denmark, fine-tuning some things. Where are you guys at at the moment? Are you feeling good going into it now?
LM: Yeah, feeling really good. We've had a few weeks in Europe getting used to acclimatisation, then training in denmark has been really good. We actually had a little bit to do with a few of the men's national team players helping us out. So it was fantastic and good to lift the standard of our training, as well. Definitely feeling really confident. And we're just happy that tomorrow we're on centre court. The girls love to play in front of a crowd so the atmosphere will get right behind them, I'm sure.
VW:Have you set any sort of target for this tournament?
LM: Yeah, our goal is definitely to get out of pool. And after we get out of pool we see what the draw has to say. But we've got to work really hard. We've got two really strong match-ups against Italy and Poland first up. And then the game against Brazil will be a very hard task. So what we're looking for is just to focus on one game at a time and just play our best volleyball.