Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 19, 2015 - Silver medals in an FIVB Beach Volleyball Grand Slam and in the FIVB World Championships might be considered a couple of heartbreaks, but those finishes have helped propel Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst to the verge of history.
They are a virtual lock to clinch a spot in the US$500,000 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in late September.
They won’t be chasing Olympic qualifying points - The Netherlands duo is already close to wrapping up their entry into the Rio 2016 Summer Games - but instead will be playing for an international tournament record $100,000 first-place prize.
“To me nothing changes because you still have to play the same game, same ball, same opponents with the same partner,” Varenhorst said before adding with a bit of a smile: “But for sure I’d really like to win this $100K tournament.”
Nummerdor, closing in on his third Olympic appearance as he and Varenhorst compete this week at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball’s FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam, understands just reaching the inaugural SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals would be a worthy accomplishment.
“Because the best teams are there,” he said. “It’s a really nice challenge for all of us. The top teams from the season are all there and it’s always nice if you can come out on top, of course.”
Nummerdor and Varenhorst are currently ranked fourth in the FIVB World Tour points standings, with the top eight men’s and women’s teams earning spots. In addition, two men’s teams and two women’s teams will receive wild-card berths.
The points are collected from the teams’ finishes in events in Croatia, Norway and Switzerland plus the five FIVB Grand Slam tournaments and three "Open" events.
The Dutch duo are no strangers to Florida. In the offseason, they trained in Port St. Lucie and later worked out in Fort Lauderdale with U.S. players Nick Lucena and Theo Brunner.
Nummerdor and Varenhorst have already proved their mettle this season - once in Florida. They reached the final at the St. Petersburg Grand Slam before falling to Americans Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson.
They returned home to The Hague for the FIVB World Champions and again reached the final only to be turned away by the top-ranked team in the world, Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt.
“Our strong point as a team is we are able to make a lot of rally points,” Varenhorst said. “We have a good block defense and serve and besides that, Reinder is a really smart player. Strategically he’s really good.
“So he’s coaching, saying ‘Let’s do this ball, let me make a fake, let me dig this ball, I’ve got a read on him, I’ll dig him over and over.’ So if for some reason we can’t make a sideout, we make up for it with our block defense and service.”
“The two finals in a row in St. Pete and The Hague gave us so many points, we are more relaxed now,” Nummerdor said. “We can focus on our game and the points come. We are pretty consistent this year, so we are really happy with the way season is going.”
But they wouldn’t mind another crack at the top-ranked team by the time Fort Lauderdale rolls around.
“I want to see if we can beat them,” Nummerdor said.
“Yes, a rematch would be nice,” Varenhorst said, “but I would rather win the rematch in Rio than Fort Lauderdale. But if we start there, that would be a nice beginning.”