Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Why sand never sticks to Olympic beach volleyball players

Revealed: Why Olympic Volleyball Players Rub Sand On Their Bodies During A Game — And The Little-Known Reason It NEVER Sticks To Them

  • Beach volleyball has been one of the most popular Olympic sports since 1996
  • During matches you often see players rubbing sand on their hands and arms
  • They are said to do this to absorb sweat and get a better grip on the ball
  • Sand helps grip but never sticks to the body as it is different from beach sand
  • Competition sand is specially regulated to ensure it does not contain rocks or shells

The reason Olympic volleyball players rub sand on their hands and arms during competitions has been revealed—and why barely a grain sticks to them.

Australia’s Mariafe Artacho de Solar and Taliqua Clancy shook off a tough challenge from China on Sunday to win in two sets and reach the quarter-finals of women’s beach volleyball in Tokyo.

During the game at Shiokaze Park, the Brisbane duo were seen rubbing themselves with sand from the pitch – a trick designed to absorb sweat and give players a better grip on the ball.

But while you’d expect sweat-soaked bodies to quickly become caked in the sand, professional beach volleyball players can dive headfirst into the court without a single grain sticking to them.

That’s because it’s sand not the same sand you walk on at Bondi or St Kilda.

Australian beach volleyball players Mariafe Artacho de Solar (left) and Taliqua Clancy (right) rub sand on their hands and arms to absorb sweat and get a better grip on the ball

Australian beach volleyball players Mariafe Artacho de Solar (left) and Taliqua Clancy (right) rub sand on their hands and arms to absorb sweat and get a better grip on the ball

No sand, no problem: sand used in Olympic games does not stick to players' skins because it is made of fine grains that contain no traces of pebbles, stones or shells

No sand, no problem: sand used in Olympic games does not stick to players' skins because it is made of fine grains that contain no traces of pebbles, stones or shells

No sand, no problem: sand used in Olympic games does not stick to players’ skins because it is made of fine grains that contain no traces of pebbles, stones or shells

According to Business Insider Australia, sand used in Olympic games is strictly regulated by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) to ensure it does not contain pebbles or shells.

The sand has to meet very specific guidelines and because of that high quality it falls off the players.

The fine shape results in a smoother grain than what you squeeze between your toes, meaning it can come into contact with the skin without sticking to it.

This year, Tokyo imported 3,500 tons of sand from Vietnam to create a 16-inch-deep surface that is safe and consistent for players.

The Brisbane duo (pictured in Shiokaze Park on July 28, 2021) play on a 16-inch-deep surface made from 3,500 tons of sand shipped from Vietnam

The Brisbane duo (pictured in Shiokaze Park on July 28, 2021) play on a 16-inch-deep surface made from 3,500 tons of sand shipped from Vietnam

The Brisbane duo (pictured in Shiokaze Park on July 28, 2021) play on a 16-inch-deep surface made from 3,500 tons of sand shipped from Vietnam

Why do beach volleyball players wear bikinis?

Beach volleyball has been one of the most popular sports at the Summer Games since it was added to the program in 1996, but it has long been plagued by accusations of sexism.

Controversy over dress codes for female athletes escalated in Tokyo after a viral social media post mistakenly identified the Norwegian women’s team protesting the beach handball dress code as one that plays beach volleyball.

In beach handball, which is not an Olympic sport, women are required to wear bikinis, but beach volleyball is not.

The European Handball Federation fined Norwegians for wearing shorts in protest at a match 8,850 kilometers away in Bulgaria – but the confusion sparked a heated debate about bikinis and tight tights around the world.

Artacho de Solar and Clancy celebrate after shaking off a tough challenge from China to win in straight sets and reach the quarterfinals of women's beach volleyball in Tokyo on August 1.

Artacho de Solar and Clancy celebrate after shaking off a tough challenge from China to win in straight sets and reach the quarterfinals of women's beach volleyball in Tokyo on August 1.

Artacho de Solar and Clancy celebrate after shaking off a tough challenge from China to win in straight sets and reach the quarterfinals of women’s beach volleyball in Tokyo on August 1.

While critics blame international sports federations for sexualizing female athletes in stark contrast to men, athletes themselves say they prefer smaller bikinis and defend their right to wear whatever they feel most comfortable playing in.

Top American volleyball duo April Ross and Alix Klineman said they could have worn shorts if they wanted to, but they didn’t.

“For me personally, I think everyone should be able to wear what they feel comfortable in,” said Ms. Ross.

“I think this is what feels most comfortable for us. Sometimes wearing more clothes in really hot weather, sand in some places is not fun.’

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