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AUSTRALIA’S LAIRD AND DEL SOLAR SEAL BACK-TO-BACK GOLD MEDALS

Australia’s Nicole Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have continued their dominant beach volleyball form in Thailand with a second consecutive Asian tour gold medal.

Laird and del Solar were unstoppable in the final of the Samila Open, beating local hopes Radarong and Udomchavee 21-7, 21-13 in a one-sided encounter.

Less than one week ago the Adelaide-based pair won gold in the Pak Bara Open.

But there was to be no back-to-back gold medal for Australia’s top ranked men’s pairing pf Chris McHugh and Isaac Kapa, who had to settle for silver against Kazakhstan’s Alexey Sidorenko and Alexandr Dyachenko.

One week after beating the same team for gold at the Pak Bara Open, the Australians struggled to get into the final at Samila, losing 17-21, 14-21.

AustrLI’a other men’s pairing of Damien Schumann and Joshua Court lost the bronze medal playoff to China’s Li Zhuoxin and Li, 21-16, 18-21, 6-15.

The win for Laird and del Solar is a further confidence boost after the pair lost the Asian Championship final to China at Manly Beach last month.

“I think for us, the loss in Manly was critical for the growth of the team,” Laird said.

“It took a lot of honest communication to move through the emotion of the loss and to take the learnings forward, but once we started making those steps we were able to put some actions in place.

“I think that every time we step on the court, past results become irrelevant and distracting, so for us we’re just looking to continuously build our game.”

Laird and del Solar, along with the Australian men’s teams, will be looking to earn Australia additional places at the Rio Olympics when they compete at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Australia in June.

Australia’s top-ranked women’s team of Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy have already sealed their place at Copacabana Beach.