Long Beach, Calif., August 23, 2015 - Before they even stepped on a beach for the 2015 FIVB World Tour, Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria had some magical sand under their feet for inspiration.
Training during the winter in Vienna, they practiced on sand imported from Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, site of the 2016 Olympic Beach Volleyball competition. Talk about having the foundation for your goal right at your feet.
Then the duo got serious about reaching the Olympics and they’re well on their way.
One of the more consistent teams on the tour in 2015, Doppler and Horst are hardly struggling the way they did to qualify for London in 2012. What a difference a knee makes.
Doppler has had to undergo three operations to repair anterior cruciate ligaments (two left, one right) plus another procedure to repair torn meniscus. With all of that behind him, he and Horst were able to get a full offseason of preparation in and have climbed to fifth place in the world rankings.
That not only would get them another Olympic bid - a third for Doppler, a second for Horst – but would qualify them for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Final in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in late September. Ten of the top men’s and women’s teams will play for a first-place prize of $100,000.
“In the years before we’ve been good but not as stable as we have been and to get to Fort Lauderdale, you have to be in the top eight, so of course it was kind of a goal but the first goal is the Olympics,” Horst said “We have the chance now to really reach it.
“We can just play for fun in Florida. Of course it’s big money for the winner, but we will try to play like every tournament, step by step and see what’s comes out if we make it there. It will be fun, interesting, difficult and I think especially for the spectators it should be a really great show.”
Horst knows this firsthand. Beach Major Company, a joint venture of Hannes Jagerhofer and Red Bull, are staging the event. Jagerhofer is also the promoter behind virtually everyone’s favorite tour stop in Klagenfurt, Austria.
“It’s also a good test for Rio because if you want to win a medal at the Olympic Games or the World Championships, you need to beat the good teams,” Doppler said. “And you only have the best teams there. It will be interesting to be there.”
The Austrians have climbed up the leaderboard by starting the season with a pair of fifth-place finishes. Their best finish was a bronze medal in the FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam.
Their offseason training, which included trips to the Canary Islands and the beaches of Southern California, is paying off for them. They left the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam, part of the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, with another fifth-place and another 480 qualification points.
The veterans have also learned how to reduce the clutter and distractions that can get in the way of a chase for the Olympics.
“We’re one of the few teams that doesn’t make the mistake to count points during tournaments, like to look which team is doing good, which team is doing bad,” Doppler said. “It’s my fourth attempt for Olympic Games, Alex’s third, we’re two of the old guys who know which mistakes you shouldn’t do.
“If you count too much, if you only have the Olympic rings in your head, it’s the wrong way. After a tournament we sit down and have a look at the results but during the tournament, it’s the worst mistake you can do and we don’t do that. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re doing better.”