Klagenfurt, Austria, July 26, 2016 - Two years of piling up Olympic points were over and Alexander Horst and Clemens Doppler could finally celebrate that the chase was over following the smart Major Hamburg in June.
Both players had qualified for their Olympiad, but it was no routine moment.
“Of course you say to yourself this doesn’t affect your game, but it was a little bit like you could sit down and breathe normally and not be nervous,” Doppler said. “It’s my fourth attempt now that I go for the Olympics and every four years something strange happens in a couple of tournaments.
“After Hamburg we just sat down and had a beer and said congratulations for the team even then we knew we were (already) more or less qualified. To see your name on the list, you’re proud.
For the Austrian duo, the cold-shower moment came when the Olympic pools were drawn. They had to join No. 1-ranked Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, Canadian veterans Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter and Italians Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri in Pool A, which might be the toughest of the six Olympic groupings.
But they also received a bonus. Their match against Carambula and Ranghieri will kick off the entire Rio 2016 Olympic beach volleyball tournament, so one of the four players will have the first serve of the Olympiad.
“Now it’s interesting we have the opening game of the Olympics which we are really surprised of because we thought it would be a Brazilian game,” Horst said. “But it’s an honour for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
So will the first serve be the famed Carambula skyball? Or will it be Horst or Doppler?
“I won’t think too much that it’s the first serve of the Olympics or whatever,” Horst said. “Maybe afterward I can tell that to my kids.”
Doppler and Horst already have plenty of stories to tell, but there is one gaping hole in the tale they’d like to fill in this week in the A1 Major Klagenfurt, the final tournament before the Olympics get underway.
This is Klagenfurt event No. 17 for Doppler and No. 13 for Horst. No Austrian team has earned a spot on the podium at Klagenfurt, something the teammates don’t need to be reminded.
But they gained some momentum in the Swatch Major Series when they reached the final in the Porec (Croatia) Major earlier this month. They beat two Olympic-bound teams on the way to the final, where they fell to Alison and Bruno in a three-set championship match.
“I get that every year at the press conference,” Horst said of the Klagenfurt drought. “I’ve always said it’s one of the biggest goals we have, to get a medal here, and we did it in Porec which is like the small brother of Klagenfurt because the same people were there. It’s just a little smaller (event), but it’s a home tournament for us and it was a dream come true because the feeling there was just amazing. I can just imagine how it would be if we can make a medal here.”
Taking care of business in their home country takes precedence this week, then they’re off to Rio to prepare for their August 6 Olympic opener on Copacabana Beach.
Doppler and Horst can’t help but think ahead a little bit, even if they momentarily have to push aside thoughts of Klagenfurt.
“It’s my third Olympics now and I remember the first one, I can remember seeing the Olympic rings and even though we said we are there and this was our goal, this is not our goal to just be part of the Games,” Doppler said. “I am 35, Alex is 33 and I don’t know if it’s our last Olympics, but we can see that we can play for medals and this is our goal, to win a medal there.
“If we play well and don’t win a medal, of course it’s going to be a good Olympic Games for us. But it’s our goal to go there and win a lot of games and to be in the last games there to win a medal.”
The A1 Major Klagenfurt is the fourth of five SWATCH Major Series events owned and operated by the Beach Major Company, the world's leading producer of Beach Volleyball events.