Warsaw, Poland, June 28, 2018 – Following success in the qualification rounds of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event in Warsaw, Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler will participate in their fourth consecutive main draw tournament on the Tour.
The young German pair were fifth in Ostrava last week and are progressing rapidly, but know that patience and confidence in their ability are key to future success in the business of beach volleyball.
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The 23-year-old Clemens Wickler was born in Starnberg near Munich into a family of volleyball players. His parents both played first-division indoor volleyball, but Clemens first started by playing football. It was only when he turned 13 that he started playing volleyball.
As a young player, however, Clemens did not get many chances to play beach volleyball. It was only when he turned 18 and received a call from the national youth beach volleyball coach that he moved to Berlin and switched to sand. Very soon he was the 2013 U19 world champion and a year later also claimed U20 continental honours.
“I knew from the beginning that I would play beach,” Clemens said. “In beach volleyball, you need to have all the technical skills – reception, setting, attack, serving, defence, while in indoor volleyball you could for example be good only at spiking. On the sand you are as good as your partner is playing. If he is having a bad day, we lose. If I am having a bad day, we lose. You cannot be replaced.”
Clemens Wickler prepares to serve
Julius Thole is 21 years old - two years younger than Clemens - but an impressive 205cm-tall. He is from Hamburg, and is also from a family of volleyball players. As a boy, Julius went to his dad’s tournaments to watch him play. And during their holidays they also played ball on the beach.
Like most players in Germany, his career began in indoor volleyball and he only began playing on sand prompted by a coach from a big beach volleyball centre in Hamburg. In 2014 Julius also became a continental champion, but in the U18 category.
Thole's reasons for picking beach over indoor were similar to Wickler’s. “I think that beach volleyball is more fun than indoor volleyball. I love having the whole responsibility. I love being only two of us on the court, without coaches, without substitutions…”
Julius Thole receives
Wickler and Thole teamed up at the beginning of 2018. “Our national coaches at the federation made the recommendation that we play together. I wanted to play with Julius. We had known each other from trainings, we each knew what the other can do. I knew how good he is, so when we talked to each other, for me it was not a hard decision,” Clemens said.
Wickler and Thole qualified for the main draw at their very first World Tour event together, the Kish Island 3-star. But in their next three tournaments, they were unable to progress beyond the qualifications.
“It was a really hard start for us. We had so many qualifications, where we played one good game and the next one bad. It was a long process for us. During practice we had the feeling that we could play at a really good level, but we weren’t able to reach that level during competition. Then we said, we are a young team, we need patience and we have trust in our own skills,” said Julius.
Patience and self-confidence gradually started paying off. Wickler and Thole made the main draw at the Mersin 3-star, the Lucerne 3-star and the Itapema 4-star before going to the Ostrava 4-star last week, where they made a fantastic five-win run from the qualifications to the quarterfinals to register their best World Tour finish so far, a fifth place.
“At our last tournament we played a really close second qualification game against the Belgians. After that we had the feeling it was really time to bring things to the court. Our game really improved and for the last five or six games we have had great confidence and we are really happy with the way we play at the moment,” Julius said.
Again starting from the qualifications, Wickler and Thole made the main draw at Warsaw after two hard-fought wins, a three-setter against Latvia’s Toms Smedins and Haralds Regza and a straight-setter against Austria’s Daniel Muellner and Florian Schnetzer. It was actually their second encounter with the Austrians, after they beat them in the final of the Gothenburg CEV Satellite in April, their first international gold as a pair.
Wickler and Thole celebrate their first international gold medal in Gothenburg
“You can compare the two games, because getting into the main draw here was really important for us, so the pressure was kind of similar. But in terms of playing the game, it was really different, because that was an indoor tournament and the service there was so important. Muellner and Schnetzer are friends of ours. It is always a tough game against them,” Thole said.
Wickler spikes against Muellner in Warsaw qualifications
“Now we are happy that we made it through the qualifications here. It was quite hard, because after a good result you have to focus again on qualification matches,” Wickler said. “Actually, qualifications are always the hardest matches, because if you play badly for 10 minutes, you are out of the tournament. Now that we made the main draw, we expect strong opponents, so we will play as well as possible and we will see how far we get in this tournament.
“Yes, after the good result at Ostrava we felt some pressure to keep the level and be successful in these qualifications, but in the main draw it will be different. We are the rookies, we are the young ones, so we will play without pressure,” said Julius.
And while they are approaching growing as a partnership with due patience, they are confident enough to have big dreams for the future.
“It’s not like we play one season and we know each other perfectly, so we have to continue developing as a team. Next year we have the World Championships in Germany and we want to participate, and, of course, our dream is to play at the Olympics one day, but now this is far away for us...” Clemens concluded.