Mixed emotions after Aussies' beach medal

Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have come up just short in the gold-medal match.
Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar have come up just short in the gold-medal match.

Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar hope they can inspire Australia's next generation of beach volleyballers, having ridden a nine-year rollercoaster to a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Clancy and Artacho del Solar suffered a straight-sets loss to United States duo April Ross and Alix Klineman in Friday's gold-medal match.

Ross and Klineman prevailed 21-15 21-16, taking 43 minutes to cap a dominant tournament in which they only dropped a single set and had the luxury of six championship points.

Indigenous trailblazer Clancy and Peru-born Artacho del Solar both expressed mixed emotions after collecting Australia's first Olympic medal in the sport since Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst's unforgettable gold on Bondi Beach.

But the duo, who both cite Sydney 2000 as pivotal motivation, were aware of the bigger picture.

"We go from being super proud to feeling a bit low," Clancy said.

"It's still a loss and we really wanted to get gold.

"It's great we were able to get Australia back into a beach volleyball final.

"Grateful for Kerri and Nat to help inspire us to get here.

"Hopefully we can inspire the next generation."

Clancy and Artacho del Solar first teamed up in 2012, delivering Australia a Continental Cup win that ensured Cook qualified for her fifth Olympics.

They made their Olympic debuts at Rio 2016 with different partners.

Both indicated they were keen for some downtime and family time before making any decisions about the future, wanting to soak up the medal after a sapping five-year cycle.

However, Artacho del Solar added "this is just the beginning for us, we can't wait for what's ahead".

"Yeah, three years? Not long, pretty close. We'll be back," Clancy said.

The Australians trailed a remarkable path to their gold-medal decider, including a quarter-final boilover against Canada's reigning world champions.

Clancy grew up more than 200 kilometres from the ocean in the rural Queensland town of Kingaroy, where she was glued to the TV for Cathy Freeman's 400m triumph in Sydney.

The proud Wulli Wulli and Goreng Goreng woman excelled at athletics and netball before discovering indoor volleyball at high school.

Clancy relocated to Brisbane to attend the Queensland Academy of Sport; she initially hated beach volleyball but came to love it while learning from and working for Cook.

Artacho del Solar shifted to Sydney at the age of 11; her family were in South America when they received a signed postcard of Cook and Pottharst's crowning glory that carried an inspirational message from the gold medallists.

The Australians were under the pump early on Friday, trailing 7-2 in the opening set.

They started the second set with more composure and aggression, winning the first two points before the Americans surged to a 10-2 lead then secured gold when Artacho del Solar's serve went wide.

"It didn't feel dominant, we have to work so hard to win points against the Australian team," Klineman said after her first Olympics, harbouring no regrets about switching from indoor to beach volleyball in 2017.

"That team has given us a lot of trouble in the past."

Switzerland's Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich claimed bronze.

Australian Associated Press