THE Continential Cup is the likely pathway for Ballarat’s Tamsin Hinchley and teammate Nat Cook in their beach volleyball Olympic bid.
Hinchley and Cook bowed out of the Rome grand slam event on Thursday night, losing their three pool matches in straight sets.
Rome carries crucial world rankings points for Olympic qualification with the top-15 pairings, plus an extra from Great Britain, automatically earning a spot.
Fellow Australian duo Louise Bawden and Bec Palmer, who ousted Hinchley-Cook in the Moscow grand slam last week, are fighting to improve on a world ranking of 16 that they took into the FIVB World Tour events.
Bawden and Palmer will play in the Rome main draw this weekend.
This means Hinchley and Cook are Australia’s leading contenders to try and stake a spot in London via the Continental Cup rounds.
The Oceania finals will be played in China from Wednesday.
Men’s and women’s winners from each five continent finals earn an Olympic berth.
Second and third ranked teams from each continent advance to an Olympic qualifying tournament in Russia later this month to play off for final spots in London.
Hinchley and Cook held a world ranking of 23 when they trekked to Europe this month.
Narrow margins between rankings made performances in Moscow and Rome pivotal.
Hinchley, 32, is aiming for a third Olympic Games while
Cook, 37, is in line to become the first Australian woman to compete in five summer Olympics.