British beach volleyball duo Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin say they are like a married couple after spending four years training and attending competitions together.
The players say they even have to force themselves to talk to each other when they are not in the mood — like a long-suffering husband and wife.
Great Britain’s women’s beach volleyball pair lie second in Pool F and play Italy today at Horse Guards Parade at 5.30pm. They beat Canada on Sunday.
Dampney and Mullin are based in Bath but spend most of the year sharing a room when they are travelling the world for training and competitions.
Dampney, 26, said: “We’ve been playing together for five years. We did have a mini-break but we got back together.” Mullin, 27, added: “We describe it more as a marriage because even when we don’t want to talk to each other we have to.”
The women have come to accept each other’s habits without getting into tiffs — over the thermostat setting in their accommodation, for example. Mullin likes the air conditioning on full blast at night, forcing Dampney to sleep in her tracksuit and jumper.
For 11 months of the year the women, who both have degrees, must stick to daily eight-hour training routines including gym sessions, ice baths and time with a psychologist.
Much of the focus before the Games has been on their bikinis rather than their world rankings. But they aren’t worried — as long as the attention switches to their playing technique once the game starts.
Dampney, whose boyfriend is New Zealand beach volleyball player Kirk Pitman, 29, said: “We want people to come along and see beach volleyball and see how spectacular and exciting it can be.” Mullin, who is single, said: “We play in hot climates, so a bikini is perfect.”
She added: “These Games will showcase and build a history for beach volleyball in this country. We hope the nation will be captivated.”
The Team GB women’s volleyball players were “buzzing” today after their first Olympic win, in a dramatic battle at Earls Court until well after midnight against Algeria, who are 53 places higher in the world rankings. Ciara Michel, 27, who made the decisive block to win the match, wrote after 3am: “Should be asleep but still smiling. Thanks to everyone who stayed up to watch.” The win follows a defeat earlier in the week by Russia.
The British squad became self-funded after hundreds of thousands of pounds in government funding was cut in 2010, leaving it on the brink of collapse.