Beach volleyball pair bid to swap Portobello for Gold Coast

Mel Coutts, left, and Lynne Beattie at Portobello beach before heading to Azerbaijan for a European Tour event.  Photograph: Greg Macvean
Mel Coutts, left, and Lynne Beattie at Portobello beach before heading to Azerbaijan for a European Tour event. Photograph: Greg Macvean
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Before dawn has broken most mornings, Lynne Beattie and Mel Coutts can be found putting their serves and blocks through their paces on the rough and ready sands of Edinburgh’s Portobello Promenade. “The dog walkers are pretty used to us now,” the latter laughs.

Fitting in training around their day jobs, the beach volleyball pairing have become well-accustomed to seizing any and all opportunities to advance their cause. On a mission to earn a spot at next April’s Commonwealth Games, they will fly out tomorrow to Azerbaijan for a European Tour event on a quest for the points that might, in turn, reap a prize of a trip Down Under.

The sands of the Gold Coast would top trump their home court by far. To get there, they need to be ranked in the top four among the potential entrants by the deadline of October 30. Presently, the Scottish duo are nestled one place outside, in hot pursuit of English rivals Jess Grimson and Victoria Palmer, who sit tantalisingly above.

“Our choice of events this month is quite tactical,” Beattie reveals. “We could have gone to China. They (Grimson and Palmer) have chosen to go there and we opted for Baku. The results from both of us will count for quite a lot.”

The quest has brought others into the extended fold. Over £2,000 was raised from well-wishers via a crowdfunding appeal before the Institute of Sport agreed to back their cause. Finishing fifth on one venture into Morocco this summer exponentially raised hopes of reaching Australia.

“We do have a chance to overtake the English girls at the last moment but the frustrating thing is it’s not entirely in our hands,” adds Beattie, who captained the British team at the 2012 Olympics. “I don’t feel we’re battling against the odds. We’ve put in the hard work. We knew it would come down to a close contest.”

There is a bigger picture here, both concede. Personal goals to be fulfilled, naturally. But a Games in Queensland offers exposure only bested by an Olympics, with volleyball – one of the sports ejected from funding by UK Sport – craving a showcase for its wares.

“We loved watching the matches at the Olympics with the top players and we want a part of that,” says Coutts.

Beattie, a development officer for the sport, would reap parallel perks. “We both want that legacy aspect, having something for the younger generation to aspire to. No team from Scotland’s ever gone on the World Tour before and we’ve showed that is possible. Any results or impressions we can make on the world stage makes a difference. People want to support us but will only do it if we show what we can do.”

The principal investment has been in themselves. In sweat. In planning. Early nights. Late finishes. All to get a summons to the beach with the spotlights on full. “We’ll be out of pocket,” Beattie says. “But it’s not disastrous. And it’s worth it.”