Zara Dampney is set to embark on what could be the most eventful three years of her life. The 26-year-old model and law graduate from Dorset has her mind and body focused on Rio de Janeiro 2016. However, there are changes afoot. Dampney has recently recruited a new coach, Kirk Pitman, an ex-professional beach volleyball player. The significance is, Pitman is also her fiancé. Surely this adds a whole new meaning to the term courtship.
‘We’re working well together, it’s amazing,’ Dampney explained. ‘Difficulties do come when one or both of us are tired, though.’ This is a combination rarely seen in the world of sport and a big decision for the ambitious couple. Refreshingly, Dampney remains excited and optimistic at the prospect. ‘We have a very good relationship and talk freely about things and we’re both honest and have the same understanding,’ she adds.
Now, as the crucial four years of preparation approaches, plans for an upcoming wedding mixed with the professional side of their relationship is all part of their new adventure. ‘We’re finding it quite hard at the moment, probably because it’s right at the start where we’re having to organise a lot of things,’ Dampney said. There are other challenges ahead too; Dampney’s former team-mate and good friend Shauna Mullin decided to retire from international volleyball, which gave the opportunity for Lucy Boulton to step in.
‘Lucy and I talked about it beforehand,’ explained Dampney. ‘There was another option, a Greek coach, but we feel like we’ve made the right choice.’Pitman, a 31-year-old from Tauranga in New Zealand, was a successful Olympic beach volleyball player himself.
Although having taken the reins of New Zealand Under-21s, this will be Pitman’s debut in charge at the top, and Dampney has abundant faith in her future husband. ‘This is Kirk’s first senior job, I feel he can really help us and is very talented. He has played at such a high level; both Lucy and I really respect him,’ she continues. So what about the old phrase “two’s company”? Playing partner Boulton has her own thoughts on this.
Things have started really positively for the three of us and they’re a great couple. I’m really benefiting from Kirk’s ten plus years of playing,’ she maintains. Whether or not the Rio carnival spirit fills the UK camp in 2016, arrangements for big celebrations this year are already under way, as the couple look forward to their wedding day.
‘Preparations are going very well, I’m really enjoying having this as a separate focus, it’s my little project at the moment,’ Dampney added. Her next three years are destined to be filled with a variety of emotions and significant events that will stay with her for the rest of her life. Zara the person, the gracious and confident individual off the field, will hopefully have a wonder-filled time embarking on a journey with more longevity and satisfaction than any volleyball tournament, the journey of a happy, fulfilled marriage.