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2018-02-27 03:56:00 CET

Sacrificing everything for beach volleyball

Meet the English duo living the dream at the Fort Lauderdale Major

Jessica Grimson and Victoria Palmer are England's number one women's team. Photocredit: Palmer/GrimsonJessica Grimson and Victoria Palmer are England's number one women's team. Photocredit: Palmer/Grimson

They are carrying the hopes of a nation at the Commonwealth Games in April and have given up their day jobs in order to realize their beach volleyball dream of glory on the world stage.

Meet England’s Jessica Grimson and Victoria Palmer, who are in Fort Lauderdale for 2018's first Beach Volleyball Major Series tournament aiming to start what will be a huge season for them in the best possible fashion.

Ten years after the pair met in Los Angeles at a training camp, they are two wins away from becoming the first English team to reach the main draw at the Beach Major Series event.

“We’re sacrificing everything,” explains Jessica, a two-time British youth champion who gave up her job as a sports therapist. “We sat down and said we can’t go into a season of a major tournament without giving it everything we’ve got.

“We said we’d give up our jobs and put everything into this season. It was a joint decision after we’d qualified for the Commonwealth Games because we did not want to go into that tournament without being in the best shape.”

Victoria, meanwhile, is on a sabbatical from her job as a support officer for one of England’s county Police forces. “My work have been very supportive,” says the 31-year-old. “They’ve given me extra leave and our families have also helped an awful lot. We did not want any regrets so it made sense to us to give it all up and focus 100 per cent on beach volleyball this season.”

Having trained in California in the lead-up to their second Beach Volleyball Major Series event – their first, last year, came at the Gstaad Major – the English pair - who are now starting their sixth season together - can’t wait to get onto the sand and take to Fort Lauderdale’s golden beach. Their first assignment in Florida will come at 8am (Eastern Standard Time) on Tuesday they take on Japan’s Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami.

Pleasure training with @evamaria.freiberger and @nadiinestrauss of Austria πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ή See you on the sand this week as @beachmajorseries #FTLMajor gets underway! 🏐🏐🏐 #hellosunny #beachvolleyball #volleyball #volleyballlovers #teamengland #teamaustria #training #trainingpartners #beachbuddies #beachlife #happy #fortlauderdale #florida

94 Likes, 6 Comments - Team Palmer Grimson (@palmergrimson) on Instagram: "Pleasure training with @evamaria.freiberger and @nadiinestrauss of Austria πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ή See you on the sand..."

“Last season was our first full-time on the World Tour and we knew it would be a learning curve for us,” continues Victoria, who has also played indoor professionally in Belgium. “We had a better season than we expected, though. We finished fifth Daegu in Korea and had a couple of ninth places, and they have all helped in getting us a step on the World Tour ladder and enable us to compete in some of the big tournaments, like the Majors.

“This is the kind of tournament we want to play in – we want to be successful to put England on the map and for people back home to take us and this sport seriously. It's become a in-joke at home, people will ask us 'how's the netball going?' Now it's time for us to stand up and show them that beach volleyball is a major sport and not just for the Olympics every four years.”

For Jessica and Victoria, it’s competing and improving and not the sight of dollar signs that interest them. What makes their story even more remarkable is that the pair, who train in Bournemouth, on England’s south coast, are not funded by their federation. For trips around the world to tournaments must try and find the funding themselves – often generously receiving financial support from close family and friends.

“It’s not about the money – that isn’t what drives us,” says 26-year-old Grimson. “What drives us is performance, improving, doing what we love and having pride in doing it. We know it’s going to be hard but we’re firm believers that the more you want something and the more work you put into something the better you can become.

“We’re not, as the cliché goes, ‘just happy to be here’ – but we are realistic. The worse case scenario is we’ll be out of the tournament on Tuesday after one match, but preparation-wise we’ve put ourselves in the best possible position. If we lose but perform well then it will won’t be a wasted trip.”

Find out whether the English girls can win their opening qualification match on BeachStream at 8am (EST) on Tuesday. Click here to sign-up.

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