No one more important than the other - we were a MACHINE!
Kerri Pottharst is without question, one of Australia's most popular female sporting personalities. She is also Australia's most decorated Indoor and Beach Volleyball player, having represented her country for an incredible 22 years!
In 1992 a serious knee injury should have ended her career, but in her typical no-nonsense style she recovered late in 1993, changed her goals to Beach Volleyball and then went on to compete in 3 Olympics and win two Olympic medals.
One of those was Bronze at the Atlanta Olympics and then the Gold that everybody remembers so well, at Bondi Beach during the Sydney 2000 Games.
"It was the ultimate win and after so many personal sacrifices and hardships there was no way I was going to let that moment slip away!!"
She is renowned for being one of the fiercest competitors in the world of Volleyball.
A glance at the statistics indicate that since 1994, Kerri has never been out of the top 10 and rarely out of the top six in International Beach Volleyball events.
Taught to her by the "The Best Beach Coach in the World," Steve Anderson, Kerri's team brought new ideas and moves to Beach Volleyball, which are now being copied by teams from all over the world.
Natalie Cook partnered with Kerri many times during their beach volleyball career’s. Some of their combined achievements include a bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and ranked 9th place at the 2004 Athens Olympics. You can read Natalie Cook’s biography here.
You have to connect the dots through Steve Anderson's life carefully to believe where the story goes. It's not easy to explain how a 5-foot-10 African-American born and raised in the west end of Louisville wound up as coach of the Gold Medal champion Beach Volleyball team from Australia.
"It's always about the journey," Anderson says. "That's where the magic is."
Let's start 30 years ago, when Anderson was 9. His father was shot to death while trying to break up an argument between two intoxicated hunters. His mother, Mary Brame, immediately forgave the two men and instructed her angry son to do the same. Anderson learned the compassion and understanding that would later guide him as a coach.
At 14, Anderson transferred from the Brown School to Western High School to play basketball and football, but he broke his ankle before the first tryout and transferred back to Brown.
He had no sports team to play on, so an older cousin took him to Chickasaw Park to watch volleyball. Wowed by the huge men rocketing spikes across the net, Anderson also noticed the smaller guys setting up those big hits. He admired the technical and strategic aspects of the game.
Soon Anderson joined those men and rose to the top level of Louisville club volleyball. He saw professional beach volleyball on television and thought, "I can do that." So in 1986 he boldly and naively moved to California to break into the beach volleyball circuit. He showed up at Santa Monica Beach expecting to show his stuff. But he quickly learned that the sport is an enclosed society.
"Here I am a 5-foot-10 black kid from Kentucky with no history, wearing my Michael Jordan jersey, and I'm trying to get a game," he said. "One guy looks up at me and says, `Bro, the basketball courts are that way.'"
No one would even play with him until a woman took pity and partnered up. To his horror, he couldn't jump as easily off the sand and the stricter rules for digs turned his sets into fouls.
He was so embarrassed by his performance in that first game that he stayed off the beach for a full year. But gradually he got the hang of the format and became a part-time player on the pro tour while working full time in sales.
A few years later a friend and top player asked him to move to Australia and join the pro ranks there. Anderson declined because of his job and girlfriend. A few months later the relationship ended and he kicked himself for not going.
"I told myself if I ever get the opportunity again, I'm going," he said.
The opportunity came in 1995. Anderson had quit his job and had stopped playing after finding success coaching several women's teams. Meanwhile, halfway across the globe, Australian duo Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst were looking to break through against the Brazilian and American dominance of their sport and went headhunting in California for a new coach.
"We couldn't speak Portuguese, so we figured we'd learn American," Cook said. "We interviewed about 10 coaches for two hours each. We fell in love with Steve and his personality."
The Australian girls offered him a salary of about $500 a week, out of their own pocket, to move to their country and train them full time. Anderson accepted without hesitation.
"It was a leap of faith," he said. "But I have entrepreneur's spirit, and I'm not afraid of risks." Anderson struggled to get used to wearing another country's uniform at the Olympics, especially when the Games were held in Atlanta in 1996. But his strategies, which included a new offense aimed at neutralizing the Brazilian and American teams' power, helped result in an unexpected bronze medal. Then at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Cook and Pottharst upset Brazil to win the gold medal on home soil.
"He's the best coach in the world," Cook and Pottharst both agree. "He works us mentally, physically and strategically. He's like a guardian angel out there."
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