Toronto, Ontario, Canada, September 15, 2016 - Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude came up short in their chase for Rio 2016 Olympic qualification in 2016, but through the disappointment the German duo wouldn’t mind taking a little credit for their country’s representation in Brazil.
She could have said that with a serious face, because in the past two years, German women’s volleyball took center stage on the FIVB World Tour.
In any other year, it would have been Laboureur and Sude in the Olympics, but they were outpointed by Ludwig/Walkenhorst and Britta Buthe/Karla Borger to claim the country’s top two spots. In fact, even Germany’s Katrin Holtwick and Ilke Semmler could make the same claim.
The year 2016 became a breakthrough for Germany, which had the depth and talent on the women’s side previously only enjoyed by the likes of Brazil and the United States.
It really wasn’t a secret why. The four teams not only trained together on a regular basis, they became friendly rivals while at the same taking measure of each other virtually on a day-to-day basis.
“We are always under pressure to work hard every day,” Laboureur said. “We cannot just say ‘OK, today we relax. We have another main draw to just play.’ It’s nice to have a lot of good teams there because it’s fun to see that today, we are a little bit more in shape than they are, or today we have to play a little better or work more on this. All in all, it’s good for Germany. It increases the level.”
While they had plenty of drama on the court with the Olympic qualifying chase, they added some more fireworks following the Olympics.
The two teams that did not reach Rio 2016, Semmler/Holtwick and Laboureur/Sude, met in the bronze medal match of the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball.
Laboureur and Sude celebrate defeating Semmler and Holtwick at the Long Beach Grand Slam
As Laboureur and Sude celebrated their victory and qualification for the SWATCH World Tour Finals in Toronto, Semmler and Holtwick had an emotional, tearful embrace in their chairs on the stadium court, knowing the Long Beach Grand Slam would be their final FIVB World Tour appearance. A week later, they announced their retirement in the German National Championships.
That wasn’t the only drama. Buthe also announced her retirement, catching many more Germans off-guard.
“Crazy,” Ludwig said. “It’s hard to see, especially with three players you had a lot of time with. I had a lot of times, especially with Katrin and Ilke. We played for like 12 years together during the seasons. It’s pretty hard to see them quitting, but I guess it was a tough time for them as well. They had 10 years together and that’s pretty unusual in Beach Volleyball. Normally there’s a lot of changing.
“They had ups and downs but they had great times. It was always tough playing them and I will miss them on tour.”
Now with the three retirements, the question is how will Germany respond in the coming years as teams strive to capture a potential FIVB World Championship in Vienna next year, but how they develop heading into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying cycle.
“First of all, it’s really great that we have this big accomplishment in Germany and it’s great to see the Germans doing good, playing hard, practicing hard, being professional from toe to head,” Ludwig said. “This is good not only the volleyball federation but also the whole German sports federation. They can see they can put some support in this sport because it’s a big sport, a great sport and we do it internationally really good, so there’s a chance to get some medals and get to see the youth getting strong in Germany.”
Yet they also have some more drama to deal with. Who will be Borger’s new partner? And will Laboureur and Sude be the representatives of the next German generation?
“We have to talk about all this after this tournament, so everything concerning next season or the next seasons we will talk through after this tournament,” Laboureur said. “We want to focus on this tournament because it’s an important one for us.”
Wait, so are they going to be a duo heading into 2017?
“We’ll see,” Laboureur said as they both smiled with a twinkle in their eyes.
They’re good enough on the court, and now they know how to throw some drama our way as well.