In theory it made good sense. An elite athlete – an Olympian no less. And one of the fastest animals on four legs, a greyhound. An exercising perfect match.
“We tried a couple of times to go for a training run,” said Olympic beach volleyballer Bec Palmer. “I thought, he’ll make a great running buddy, but he stops and sniffs everything. I start running, then I have to stop, and then I start, and then stop. Needless to say it didn’t last long.”
The not so great running buddy is Sterling, Bec’s greyhound she and partner Richelle adopted from Greyhounds as Pets two years ago.
“The biggest thing is I find him so grounding. When I am home, and when I am around him, he’s my best mate, so I find that I can recharge and recover and he’s the perfect recovery buddy.
“He’s very in tune and picks up on everything. If you are feeling a bit down or having a not so great day, he leans in a bit more, or he’ll come over and rest his head on your leg. He’s the most special boy.”
After fostering their first greyhound for seven or eight weeks, Bec and Richelle decided to foster again. But when they visited the GAP facility at Wyee, that all changed.
“I knew he was my dog before I had even patted him. He’s probably the most extroverted greyhound I have seen. He’s full throttle, but then he will also sleep 15 hours a day. He has both speeds which I really like.”
While she expected to be on the road competing and hoping to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, COVID-19 has put an end to that, and Bec is now spending plenty of time at home with Sterling.
“My initial feelings was actually relief more than disappointment,” she said. “All the uncertainty and the unknowns. Knowing it has been postponed and giving it a whole year, it was like: “ok we have some time now”.
“I’ve got a whole lot of time at home now and Sterling thinks this is the best thing ever.
”I’ve been working on developing an online beach volleyball course. People can’t be out in the sand right now so it’s a way to still feel like they are learning and growing and expanding as a volleyballer.
“It’s 21 lessons broken into four different aspects of the game. I’ve filmed a little video class for each one of them and added some activities, and you can go to www.beachvolley.online and work your way through at your own pace and hopefully learn something.”
Bec was playing tennis and basketball in 2003 when spotted through the South Australian Sports Institute’s talent program.
“They took a look at me and said, “you’re tall, you have long lanky arms, we think you might be ok at volleyball.” The very first session I loved it. I quit basketball and tennis within weeks.”
In 2006, she won the Junior World Championships in Bermuda with Alice Rohkamper, and after partnering with Louise Bawden in 2009, three years later, she was at the London Olympics.
“My dad came over from England on a boat when he was 4 or 5 and had never been back,” Bec explained. “Mum and dad flew to London to watch me and that was a pretty special. Dad got to go home and visited some places where he grew up. I don’t think that would have happened if I hadn’t been in the Olympics.”
After being first reserve for Rio, she decided to walk away from volleyball, then a call from Adelaide Crows’ AFLW coach Bec Goddard came, asking if she wanted to try football.
“We went to Footy Park and had a kick – she wanted to make sure I could kick the footy and mark the footy, and I could, and she signed me up as a rookie the day after.”
A chance meeting at a Hen’s Night in Sydney the following year, led to Bec deciding to give it one more try, with Rio Olympian Nikki Laird, and the pair are now setting their sights on Tokyo.