Johns and Boulton miss medal and start long Olympic qualifying battle
GREAT Britain's Denise Johns and Lucy Boulton settled for fourth at the London 2012 beach volleyball test event - but they admit it won't be easy to return next summer for an upgrade.
ENCOURAGING: Denise Johns and Lucy Boulton settled for fourth at the London 2012 beach volleyball test event on Horse Guards Parade
The British number twos stunned Olympic bronze medallists and world number one pair Chen Xue and Xi Zhang to reach the final four but went down in three sets to Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, 21-13, 17-21, 15-10, on Horse Guards Parade.
They then lost in straights sets in their bronze medal match, Brazilians Vivian Cunha and Taiana Lima winning through in two close-fought sets 21-19, 21-18.
But they can take satisfaction from claiming the biggest scalps of their careers and pushing the world number fours the distance in a week they believe has put them back on track after a season that has seen their ranking, once as high as 13, fall outside the top 50.
"If you look back on this week it's been incredibly successful and we have to take real positives from that," said Boulton.
"Beating the Olympic bronze medallists was probably the highlight of our career, so while we are a little disappointed not to win bronze, we have to remember that.
"This has given us a little glimpse but there is a lot of hard work ahead."
Johns and Boulton just missed out on qualifying for the Beijing Games and are locked in a tense battle, with British team-mates Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullins, for the one available host nation quota place next summer.
Their performances at this week's VISA FIVB Beach Volleyball International won't have harmed their chances, even if they have ranking points to make up on their domestic rivals.
In truth, their best chance of qualifying remains the better positioned Dampney and Mullins, who lost their quarter-final in London, cracking the world's top 16 - thereby earning automatic entry and freeing up the wildcard position.
"It's going to be very tough to get both teams in but there are still opportunities to lift our ranking and we'll be working very hard to do that," said Johns.
"A year is still a long time and lots of things can happen in 12 months. We are just focussing on us and our team development and we've done a few things this week that can give us real confidence.
"We will do whatever is within our power to get back here next year."
© Sportsbeat 2011