Gstaad, Switzerland, July 10, 2019 - In 2001, Clemens Doppler hopped in his car in Austria and started driving. Ten hours later, catching naps in the car along the way, he arrived in Gstaad.
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“I came here the day before the qualification,” Doppler recalled. “And I left the next day at noon because we lost the qualification.”
So, 20 hours of driving for 40 minutes of beach volleyball with partner Dietmar Maderbock, and a career was launched.
Since then the picturesque city has been the host of 19 men’s tournaments, and Doppler hit the court Wednesday for his 18th appearance.
“The second year I was here I was sleeping on the floor of my father’s room because my father was an international referee for 10 years,” Doppler said. “They got the nice rooms up in the castle, so I slept there.”
Another milestone was reached later in the day when Kerri Walsh Jennings stepped on center court. Introduced as “The Queen of Gstaad,” Walsh and partner Brooke Sweat picked up a victory in their 2019 debut.
Walsh Jennings also made her maiden voyage to Gstaad in 2001. Playing with Misty May-Treanor, the picked up a bronze medal. Not to worry. They won the next three years enroute to capturing six gold medals in the event.
Her appearance was the 15th of her journeys to Gstaad, tying Switzerland Rio 2016 Olympian Isabelle Forrer.
“Oh my gosh. They’re so nice to me here,” Walsh Jennings said. “There’s genuine love and it goes both ways and when you show up at certain places, they’re going to love you or hate you so I’m glad I’m in love here.
“I grew up in paradise in the Santa Cruz mountains (in California). I feel like this is that, it’s that much closer to God. It’s felt like home away from home, truly, the first time. My father came to the first event when we played in here. It’s everything, and now we have some very dear friends who come to see us every year and it makes it more special.”
While Doppler has yet to reach the finals here, he wouldn’t miss the tournament for the world. Not even if the rare air doesn’t allow his hard serves, or those of partner Alexander Horst, to sink at the end and bounce off the baseline.
Both Doppler and Walsh Jennings were quick to point to the work of tournament director Ruedi Kunz.
“With the river here, with the nice people, with Ruedi the chief, I never met an angry Swiss,” Doppler said. “I really appreciate the work they do. Twenty years on the calendar, it’s pretty much of a big effort. A lot of good memories. It’s just beautiful.”