July 20, 1996
Sex, sand and sport
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
ATLANTA -- She loves it. She hates it. She loves it. She hates it. She loves it.
She's a Canadian women's volleyball player and she knows how her sport is being viewed by most sports fans going into these Centennial Olympic Games.
Sex On The Beach.
And that's okay, Barb Broen-Ouellette guesses.
"We have to handle that now, but not four years from now,'' said the 31-year-old Edmonton school teacher who is half of Canada's distaff duo in the inaugural, full-medal-sport appearance of beach volleyball at an Olympic Games.
There's nothing wrong with a sport being sexy, she says. But after the world has watched, she figures the `itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot bikini' image will be gone with the wind.
"I know people see us running around with a lot of skin, but what about the swimmers?'' Broen-Ouellette asked.
"Going in, people see the girls, the skin, the beach, the sand. I don't knock it. It's giving us recognition. People will watch. And once they watch, they'll see.''
But isn't the sport selling sex with the bikini bottoms and the look?
"We could wear shorts," she admitted. "But then you get sand everywhere. The bathing suit fits the sport."
Broen-Ouellette knows she has received far more publicity than other Olympians of similar status. "It has been really amazing, really great," she said.
She isn't really a beach person. And the only beach in Edmonton is at West Edmonton Mall.
Yet she has a great tan.
"I won't go near a tanning booth," Broen-Ouellette said. "And we don't sit in the sun and lay around the beach. When we play, we pile on the sunscreen.
"A lot of people in beach volleyball find out I'm from Edmonton and they're surprised. They think we're igloo people."
Most beach volleyball fans, after all, are beach people.
"It's sitting on a beach chair with a cold drink -- that's a big part of it," she said. "It's watching elite athletes. That's a big part of it, too. But it's a package. It's a happening."
The weather in Edmonton this spring and summer complicated Broen-Ouellette's preparation for the big show.
"Every time I went back to Edmonton, it didn't work," said the French immersion and phys-ed teacher who is partnered with Margo Malowney of Mississauga.
Broen-Ouellette did a lot of shuttling back and forth to California. That's where I first met Barb Broen. It was the 1984 Olympic Games. She was 19.
"I was a giddy girl then," she said with a laugh. "Hopefully I'll be a more intelligent interview this time around."
Back then, she was a member of the Canadian women's (indoor) team.
Having retired from the indoor game, she decided to give the five-ring circus another try when beach volleyball became a full medal sport.
Broen-Ouellette hasn't been on the international circuit long, but it has taken her to events in Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Portugal and Costa Rica.
"The pro circuit in the U.S. is just huge. It's so exciting to watch. And it's so simple to watch. Either I take the ball or my partner takes it. Once people see it at the Olympics, everybody will understand."
This isn't ballroom dancing. This is absolute athleticism.