World Beach Games: Wendy Martin swaps grass for sand

Team GB beach soccer team
Team GB are competing in five other sports in addition to beach soccer

Wendy Martin spent eight seasons at Tottenham Hotspur Women but has swapped grass for sand as she competes for Team GB in beach soccer at the inaugural World Beach Games.

The 37-year-old scored 89 times in 168 appearances but she retired from the grass game before the new FA Women's Super League campaign in September.

Martin said she "jumped" at the chance to be involved with the beach version.

"It's a fantastic time for women's football and [beach] soccer," she said.

Speaking to BBC Sport, she added: "I saw women's football grow phenomenally in the time I was at Spurs.

"I'd like to spend time in beach soccer and see if we could do the same here."

GB made a winning start to the World Beach Games on Friday, Hannah Haughton's late goal securing a 5-4 victory over Paraguay in their opening group game.

Beach soccer is one of 14 sports being showcased at the Games in Doha, which run until 16 October.

And the British women's beach soccer team hope it will boost the prospects of their sport being included in future Olympics.

"This is a huge opportunity," Gemma Hillier told BBC Sport.

"From an early age I've watched the Olympics and been inspired by their achievements so to be in Team GB kit is surreal and just amazing."

Spain and Russia are favourites for the women's beach soccer title but the British players were crowned European champions in 2017, competing as England,

"Ultimately our aim is to win the gold medal in Doha. We think we're good enough and that's what we've been training for," added Hillier.

What are the World Beach Games?

More than 1,200 athletes from 97 countries are expected to take part in Doha with 350 medals on offer.

Among the 14 sports are 3v3 basketball, skateboarding, kata karate and bouldering, which will use the event as preparation for their Olympic debuts at Tokyo 2020.

Others to look out for include beach wrestling, beach handball, aquathon and beach tennis.

The event is being run by the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) with the British Olympic Association (BOA) managing the GB athletes.

As such competitors will compete as part of Team GB rather than for their respective individual federations.

Could 'new' sports be included in future Olympics?

The Olympic movement is undergoing something of revamp and in a bid to rejuvenate the Games new sports - with considerable 'youth appeal' - are being added to the programme for future Olympics.

Over recent editions the Youth Olympics have been seen as a path to the senior Games, with 3v3 basketball, skateboarding and sport climbing all featuring at Nanjing 2014 before being lined up for senior Games debuts at Tokyo 2020.

Karate and breaking were trialled at Buenos Aires 2018 and will appear at the senior games for the first time at Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 respectively.

Multi-sport events like the World Beach Games - and recent World Urban Games in Budapest - provide athletes with the opportunity to profile their sport to global audiences and demonstrate it can attract younger audiences.

Futsal was the preferred new football-related format to be trialled at the last Youth Olympics, but with the next edition in 2022 set to take place in Dakar, Senegal, there is the chance beach soccer could be given an opportunity to further demonstrate its potential there.

"It's unbelievable to have this opportunity and I'm excited to represent my sport and show what it's all about," 2018 world junior wakeboarding champion Luca Kidd told BBC Sport.

Who's competing for Team GB?

Team GB has 20 athletes competing in Doha in six of the sports.

Sky Brown, the 11-year-old World Championship bronze medal-winning skateboarder, was expected to line up for the British team in Doha, but withdrew before the event because of "unforeseen educational commitments".

Aquathon - Chloe Pollard, Hannah Kitchen

Beach soccer - Charlotte Haynes, Gemma-Louise Hillier, Hannah Haughton, Hannah Short, Katie James, Molly Clark, Nadine Bazan, Rebecca Barron, Sarah Kempson, Wendy Martin

Bouldering - Emily Phillips, Nathan Phillips, William Ridal

Kitefoil racing - Guy Bridge, Oliver Bridge, Steph Bridge

Wakeboarding - Luca Kidd

Water ski jump - Robert Hazelwood