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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Fun in the sun at the beach
Australia's Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook celebrate victory in 2000
Australia won on home soil in 2000
Beach Volleyball hails from California but is now a recognised global sport.

It was first introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where it proved hugely popular.

The idea of good-looking men and women playing sport in skimpy outfits on golden beaches was a winning one, with both sponsors and supporters.

Television lapped up the coverage and by the time it was held on Bondi Beach at the Sydney Games, officials restricted the size of swimsuits in order to show as much flesh as possible without the competitors being arrested.

Again, the fun and frolics on the Sydney shoreline proved a massive draw.

Detractors argue that a large part of the sport's skill is in being able to hurl yourself around the sand while all the time keeping your sunglasses on.

Image may be everything, but so is a ticket to one of the fastest growing attractions at the Olympics.

The first official match was played in California in 1943, but the sport did not spurt in size until the 1970s and 80s.

The California Beach Volleyball Association was set up in 1965 and after a sustained period of growth the Association of Volleyball Professionals was set up in 1983, attracting numerous Olympic stars.

The first men's world championship was played in 1987, with the women's event making its debut in 1993.

Finally in 1996 the sport was introduced to the Olympics and was deemed a roaring success.

The USA have won each of the men's tournaments with volleyball legend Karch Kiraly taking his tally of golds to three, his 1996 win coming after victories in 1984 and 1988 in the indoor version.

Brazil, the modern home of the sport, have dominated the women's event, but unlike the USA were unable to win back-to-back golds in Sydney.

Australia's Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst were buoyed on by frenzined home support to clinch a thrilling match 12-11, 12-10.

MEDAL TABLE (since 1996)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men
USA 2 1 0 3
Brazil 0 1 0 1
Canada 0 0 1 1
Germany 0 0 1 1
Women
Brazil 1 2 1 4
Australia 1 0 1 2





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