Doha, Qatar, November 12, 2015 – For Belgian duo Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle establishing themselves on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour has been a big effort, but now they are starting to reap the rewards for their efforts.
The pair are relatively new to beach volleyball having both played professional volleyball back home, though they did play beach volleyball during the off-season on the national tour.
As such 2015 is the first season in which they have consistently played beach volleyball and after earning enough points to begin to compete on the World Tour they are making steady progress.
They played in the St Petersburg and Olsztyn Grand Slams over the summer and since then have competed in Xiamen, Puerto Vallarta and Antalya where they reached the quarterfinals.
They were unable to better that result at the Qatar Open this week where they reached the second elimination round, but remain pleased with their progress.
“At the start of the season we didn’t have enough points, it was a simple as that,” van Walle said. “We played the European tour and some zonal competitions and got a lot of points and that is why were are here now; straight into the main draw and we are really happy with that.
“The World Tour isn’t so easy for us financially because we are just starting up. The Federation are helping, but still we need to look at what is possible. We really wanted to play the last four Opens and we’ve managed that.”
In the midst of their rapid beach volleyball progress is a chance for the pair to play at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
It remains a long-shot, but van Walle and Koekelkoren are likely to play when Belgium take on the Czech Republic, Norway, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Turkey, France, Austria, Latvia, Russia, Greece, Switzerland and Estonia in the CEV Continental Cup Final in Stavanger, Norway in June.
A place at Rio 2016 is the prize for the winning federation and even if they don’t qualify the Continental Cup has been another step in their rapid beach volleyball learning curve.
“It is a chance to go to Rio so you have to go for it, but it will be so hard,” van Walle said. “We are happy to be there in the final round and see what happens. It is good to have a lot of games and to play good teams and it keeps you going.”