Natalie Cook has bowed out of her final Olympic Games.
Natalie Cook has bowed out of her final Olympic Games. Contributed

Cook gone but not forgotten

AUSTRALIA'S premier beach volleyball exponent Natalie Cook might have bowed of the Olympic Games after her fifth representation in London, but she won't be lost to the Olympic movement. 

"I'm addicted to the Olympic Games," Cook said at today's press conference after she and teammate Tamsin Hinchley lost their third match of the tournament to Czech pair Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova, 16-21, 21-18, 11-15 late on Day 5 of competition.

The Sydney Olympic Games gold medallist said in retirement from competition she was keen to develop beach volleyball facilities around Australia to encourage youngsters to take up the sport.

"I have a company, Sandstorm, and my goal is to build volleyball courts all over Australia, so that young kids watching at home who say I want to play beach volleyball can play the sport," she said.

Cook will continue her role on the AOC Athletes Commission, a role she said she hoped to fulfil through to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"As you can see I'm addicted to the Olympic Games and it will be pretty hard for (Chef de Mission) Nick Green and (AOC president (John Coates) to keep me out."

Cook, 37, who started her Olympic career with a bronze medal at Atlanta in 1996, said it had been a shock to the system for the first time playing all three of her matches late at night.

"I have never played this late before," she said. "It's a shock to have three late-night matches, and the worst part is having to wear cold-weather gear.

"The wind is very chilly and you shouldn't have to focus on how your body temperature is."

Admitting she needed a rest after 20 years at the top of her sport, Cook said it was time to step aside for the "faster, stronger, younger" athletes coming through.

"In trying to stay at the top of the game for the past 20 years the biggest break I've had is 18 months after Beijing (Olympic Games in 2008).
"My mind and body needs a rest, and it's not a rest I'll be coming back from.

"Playing at this level requires three to five hours preparation physically a day, and you get a day off if you're lucky.

"There's no reason to relax in this environment of trying to be the best in the world and it takes an enormous amount of emotional strength, which I don't think I can sustain any more.

"So, as of last night at 3am, for me it's over."

Cook added with a laugh that she would now become a "groupie" at the London Games, and go to watch sports like basketball, hockey, BMX and swimming.