Like many other talented sportswomen, Becchara Palmer grew up playing a variety of sports.
Palmer was so good at sport that she went to a sporting high school. During her high school years, the South Australia Sports Institute paid the school a visit and Palmer participated in their talent identification program.
A week later a letter arrived addressed to Palmer.
“I opened the letter and it said, based on all the skills I had participated in, that I would be good at sprint cycling, kayaking and beach volleyball,” said Palmer.
“I decided to pick beach volleyball because it was a ball sport.
“I went and tried it later that week and absolutely loved it. Within two weeks I had quit all my other sports and since then, it has almost consistently been full-time beach volleyball for me.”
That was back in 2003 and beach volleyball was still riding the wave of success created for the sport by Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst, who won gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Even though Palmer wasn’t paying much attention to beach volleyball at those Olympics, she recognises how crucial the Olympics are for sports like beach volleyball.
“Having a home Olympic games gives all the sports a boost, so I was fortunate to benefit and play beach volleyball just a couple of years later,” said Palmer.
“That’s why it is so important for the Olympics to go ahead.
“It has a huge impact at the time, but there is an ongoing legacy for sport being viewed around the world. That is what’s so special about the Olympics.”
(Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Since she started playing beach volleyball in 2003, Palmer hasn’t looked back.
Her first international competition was in 2005 and it wasn’t long before she tasted success, winning the Junior World Championship in Bermuda with her first partner Alice Rohkamper in 2006.
In 2010 and 2011, Palmer and new partner Louise Bawden won the Australian championship and at one point were ranked Australia’s number one team.
Palmer and Bawden were also selected to represent Australia at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Their selection was secured after an 18-month period, which saw the pair ranked 16th in the world. At those games, Palmer was just 24 years old and was the youngest of Australia’s female beach volleyball players.
Despite her love of beach volleyball, it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for Palmer.
There was a period where she was questioning whether she wanted to continue with the sport and resulted in her taking some time away and playing in the inaugural season of the AFLW for the Adelaide Crows.
“That just popped out of nowhere,” said Palmer.
“I was playing volleyball and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content. So I made a really tough decision to step away and had no idea what I was going to do.
“I assumed I would work full-time and enter adult life.”
Enter Bec Goddard.
“A couple of days later Bec Goddard called me and invited me out to see if I could kick a footy,” said Palmer.
She could kick a footy and was included as a rookie on the Crows’ list. This was a period of real change for Palmer.
“It was exactly what I needed, I was a rookie and doing something completely new,” said Palmer.
“It was so new, I had never done this before. There were so many difference. There were 30 women in the squad versus one teammate.
“The professionalism of the club and a different training regime. It was all such a breath of fresh air.”
The Crows have enjoyed huge AFLW success. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Palmer only played one season after making the decision at the end of the first year to move to Sydney to be with her partner. But her year of AFLW reinvigorated her and she returned to beach volleyball to partner with Nikki Laird.
Laird and Palmer have a partnership that takes a holistic approach to their lives as athletes. When the two met they instantly connected and were both feeling like they hadn’t reached their potential in the sport. Both felt like they had more to give.
“As a team we have prioritised a lot of things that other teams may not,” said Palmer.
“We look at ourselves as whole athletes so there is a focus both on the sand and off it.
“It is about being as happy and as whole as we can be knowing that that will positively influence our performance in the sport.”
After a year that was impacted by the pandemic, with some competitions being cancelled, Palmer is looking forward to being out on the sand this weekend with Laird in Manly.
This weekend is the Australian National Championships, but also doubles as the third leg of the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour and Palmer and Laird are vying for their spot in Tokyo.
But until then, Palmer is just thrilled to be competing.
“I can’t wait to get out there again,” said Palmer.
“Even though border restrictions have meant we haven’t had as many tournaments as we normally would, at the moment I am taking what I can get.”