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Beach volleyball goes from rags to riches
Nick Perry
20:56 AEST Sun Jul 22 2012

When beach volleyball made its sandy debut as an Olympic sport at Atlanta, Australian Nat Cook competed "out in the car parks".

In London, five Games on, she will play at the foot of Buckingham Palace.

The choice of venue for the London Olympics shows just how far beach volleyball has come since Cook was a bright-eyed 21-year-old winning bronze at Atlanta.

She's since won gold on the sand of Bondi, spiked on the Mediterranean at Athens and dived in the temporary "beach" at Beijing's Chaoyang Park.

But Horse Guards Parade, right in the heart of London alongside The Mall and Number 10 Downing Street, definitely takes the cake for Cook.

"It's pretty amazing for us," Cook told reporters in London on Sunday.

"When I first started in Atlanta we were out in the car parks.

"Now we're at the foot of Buckingham Palace."

She said the "grandiose" stadium at the iconic location could seat 15,000 spectators, the biggest Olympic venue yet for the sport.

The 37-year-old is now the oldest competitor in the beach volleyball at the Games, and she plans on using all that experience in her quest for gold.

The one and only time she achieved that was at home in Sydney 12 years ago with then partner Kerri Pottharst.

It was above and beyond the highlight of her career, she said, but London could just snatch the honour if things go to plan.

"Obviously Bondi's very close to my heart," she said.

"But I think this one would go a very close second, unless we win and then it might take the number one."

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