Natalie Cook believes the bikini is the most effective uniform in beach volleyball but she has shelved plans to don the outfit in her London Olympics opening match after being handed an extraordinary 11pm start time.
The five-time underwear manufacturer Olympian and her playing partner Tamsin Hinchley have been drawn to meet double gold medallists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the United States at Horse Guard’s Parade on Saturday night, with the late scheduling a result of timing for American television.
Despite the International Volleyball Federation easing the dress standard – it was previously compulsory for female beach volleyballers to wear a bikini or full-body suit in international competition – Cook has remained a staunch advocate of the two-piece.
However, after arriving at the Australian team outfitting centre in east London she said her and Hinchley would be covering up in anticipation of cool late-evening conditions and possibly rain at the venue near Buckingham Palace.
”We’re in there now trying on our long tights,” the Sydney gold medallist said.
”Then we put our uniform on over the top so we kind of look like Superman with our undies on the outside. It won’t be too good but it’s much better than playing cold because you’ve got to be able to focus.
”We are playing so late because of the American broadcast and NBC coverage. It is not great for the bikini but we will do our best.”
Volleyball officials are now allowing competitors to play in shorts and sleeved tops at the Olympics, relaxing the regulations in an effort to attract entrants from countries with more restrictive cultural standards.
Cook, however, argues that the bikini is the attire that works for her and Hinchley.”I still think the bikini is the best practical application for our sport in most conditions. We play in 45 degree heat in Brazil,” the 37-year-old said. ”Even the bikini is too much in that heat.”Cook and Hinchley flew to London from Austria where they finalised Olympic preparations at a grand prix event in Klagenfurt. They are hoping to spring an upset on the champion Americans in their opening contest – even if it stretches into Sunday morning.
”We do have a tough draw,” Cook said. ”Hopefully we can catch them sleeping. They’ve been out of competition for the last two weeks – they’ve chosen to go back to the US and practise.
”It’s a different level when you’re in the firing line every day playing in that competition. Hoping we can catch them napping.”