Espinho, Portugal, July 20, 2019 – Just a year ago, Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler won their first ever medal on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour finishing third at the four-star event in Espinho. Now the up-and-coming German duo are back to the Atlantic coast of Portugal, but just two weeks after they reached the final of the World Championship, they are no longer in the role of underdogs.
“It was amazing for us last year. It was our first medal on the FIVB World Tour!” 24-year-old defender Wickler told fivb.com right after the German pair won their pool and advanced directly to the eighthfinals. “We like it here. Espinho is a beautiful place with a beautiful beach and a lot of young people hanging out playing volleyball. It’s just a good place…”
Thole & Wickler celebrate the victory in the 2018 Espinho bronze medal match
To reach the 2018 Espinho podium, Thole & Wickler had to start from the qualifications. Now they are seeded fifth, wearing the aura of world vice champions, and everyone considers them a team to be reckoned with. That bronze was only a small step in their steady and impressive rise to a top-level status. Later in 2018, they made the semis at the World Tour Finals in Hamburg and in 2019 they claimed their first silver medals, at the Hague four-star stop and, most amazingly, at the very World Championship, again in Hamburg. Interestingly, in both finals they lost to the same team, Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy & Viacheslav Krasilnikov.
“We are happy that Stoyanovskiy & Krasilnikov are not here, at Espinho, now,” Wickler joked and continued, “The World Championship was the greatest tournament we ever played – with 12 thousand people cheering for us! It was just unbelievable to stand on the sand and play beach volleyball at such a stadium. In the Hague we won our first silver medal on the World Tour and that was great too. But next year’s Tokyo Olympics is coming up and we need some more results to get there. I think both the Hague and the World Championship were great steps along the way, but we have some more steps to go.”
Now in the role of favourites, Thole & Wickler look confident on the Espinho sand, at their first tournament after the great success in Hamburg. They went through an emphatic shutout of Australia’s Maximilian Guehrer & Zachery Schubert in their first match. In the second, they coped with the tough opposition of Latvia’s Martins Plavins & Edgars Tocs to snatch a 2-1 (21-18, 14-21, 15-13) victory and win the pool.
“We played a really solid first match. We were really focused and we are happy that we played that way after the World Champs, because it was really emotional for us. We had to get used to the new situation here and I think it worked really well,” 22-year-old Thole commented. “The second match, against Plavins & Tocs, was so hard. It was a big fight. They had some good solutions and we had some problems with the adaption to the wind in the second set. They had great tactics and put us under a lot of pressure, but in the end it is really great that we were able to win this game. This is new for us, maybe because of the more confidence after the World Championship, but now we know that even if not everything works we can still win the game. We believed in us and we won.”
Julius is also still very excited and emotional about the memorable World Championship they played two weeks ago at home, in Germany.
“There are so many great memories from the World Championship! We won against Dalhausser, we won against Alison, we won against the best team in the world right now, the Norwegians. We played matches in front of 12 or 13 thousand people. We had this incredible tournament at home and it’s still hard to believe what happened there!” the 2.06m-tall blocker said. “Yes, after the World Championship, it happens a bit more often that people stop us in the street and we hope it lasts longer than just two weeks, because what happened in Hamburg was unique. What we saw had never happened in beach volleyball before. As Dalhausser said on his website, it was the loudest stadium he had ever played at. I think that means a lot. We hope this story continues in Germany and we do our small part to make the sport even bigger.”
While they have another encounter with Brazilian standouts Alison Cerutti & Alvaro Morais Filho coming up in Espinho’s round of 16, the Germans are also looking further ahead to the next milestone event on the FIVB calendar, the World Tour Finals from September 4 through 8 in Rome.
“Rome is such a great city, with so many old buildings!” Wickler pointed out. “I like to go there for vacation, but also to play at the unique venue of Foro Italico where the World Tour Finals will be held. We are already looking forward to this tournament and as always we will try to go as far as we can.”
Posing with the World Championship silver medals
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