• Nikki Laird (left) and Mariafe Artacho Del Solar at 2016 Manly Volleyfest launch,January 2016 (AAP)Source: AAP
Who knows if the superstitions of beach volleyballers Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar work, but the Rio hopefuls are doing something right after winning back-to-back Asian Tour gold medals.
By
Rachel de Bear

Source:
AAP
22 Apr 2016 - 2:24 PM  UPDATED 22 Apr 2016 - 2:24 PM

Like many elite athletes around the world, beach volleyballers Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar practice a set of rituals and habits. 

They position themselves in an identical manner in relation to one another, and avoid resting on one side of a court if they sense "bad energy".

Laird's serving ritual requires a ball spin of the ball followed by a twist so the logo faces the position she feels is best.

Laird feels strange without a watch on her left wrist.

And after chipping a nail during a big match - it's a bad sign.

Of course, as beach volleyballers, their major concern is bikini colour. 

"We'll always have conversations about what colour bikini we're going to wear, because we might be feeling like one's not so lucky at the moment," Laird said.

Indeed, the pair donned lucky mango for last month's Asian championships final on Manly Beach and came up short against China's Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia.

"It's hard to keep up," Laird said.

"Because we're going to lose games, and we've lost in all of our bikinis now.

"We've got to remember which ones we felt good in at one stage."

The fortunate thing about the colour spectrum is that the possibilities are infinite.

Strawberry is the new hue for April's Asian tour - and it's so far so good.

 Laird and Artacho waltzed through Thailand's  Pak Bara Open not losing one set.

And comfortably won last weekend's Samila Open:

The under-23 champions will now spend another week in Asia to smooth over any wrinkles in their game. They'll play world tour events in May to wet their global toes, then will return to Australia for June's Asian Olympic qualifiers. 

After March's Rio Grand Slam, Laird and Artacho have their eyes firmly on the prize. 

"It feels like we're definitely trending upwards and improving every game," Laird said.

"We've been leading into this pressure for four years now.

"In elite sport it's rare to have any moment in your career when you don't have some level of external and internal pressure on you.

"That's something we've learnt how to deal with."