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STUNNING START FOR NEW AUSTRALIAN BEACH COMBINATION

Australian beach volleyballers Becchara Palmer and Phoebe Bell, playing in their first tournament together, have pulled off a stunning victory in the Palembang Open in Indonesia.

Along the route to victory 2012 Olympian Palmer and teenager Bell beat fellow Australians, Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Nikki Laird, and in doing so denied them the chance of a hat-trick of Asian tour titles.

Meanwhile it was a return to the winner’s circle for Australia’s Isaac Kapa and Chris McHugh in the men’s competition.

The Australians, who won the Pak Bara Open in Thailand two weeks ago before losing last weekend’s Samila Open, had an incredible tussle against Kazakhstan’s Alexey Kuleshov and Dmitriy Yakovlev.

After taking the opening set, they were then outplayed in the second, before clawing their way to victory in a tense final set 21-16, 15-21, 20-18.

12 months ago Bell and Palmer were playing for the Australian women’s indoor team.

But while Palmer, who competed at the London 2012 Olympics alongside Louise Bawden, returned to beach volleyball at the start of the Australian summer, 19-year-old Bell has only recently committed to the beach program.

“We’re pretty chuffed,” Palmer said.

“Our tournament was run game-by-game. We knew what we wanted to create, and it only took us a few games to start seeing it

“But once it clicked, it clicked.”

Bell and Palmer beat del Solar and Laird 21-18, 21-17 in the semi-finals, and were then too strong for Kazakhstan’s Tatiana Mashkova and Irina Tsimbalova 22-20, 21-14 in the final.

Their victory adds intrigue to June’s Asian Olympic beach qualifiers, with Australia hoping to qualify a men’s and women’s team for Rio.

While del Solar and Lair are considered the front runners should Australia be successful, the form of Bell and Palmer shows it will not be straightforward.