Klagenfurt, Austria, July 27, 2016 - One of Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl’s first Klagenfurt memories was the advantage of sleeping in the home bed during one of the biggest Beach Volleyball events in the world. This year, the Austrians’ Klagenfurt memory will be as a kick starter for their appearance next week in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Let’s take you back in time. Exactly 20 years ago, to the first-ever FIVB World Tour tournament in the picturesque city of Klagenfurt. Huber was on the court, but as player as it was not possible because the Klagenfurt-born was only 12 years old at this time.
No, the little “Xandi” volunteered as ball retriever at the first-ever international tournament in Klagenfurt - the beginning of his everlasting love story with the event. And one thing was clear for Huber as it “was the moment I knew that I wanted to become a professional Beach Volleyball player.”
Owned and operated by the Beach Majors Company, the world foremost promoter of Beach Volleyball events, the A1 Major Klagenfurt means the world to Huber, who turned 31 two days ago.
“It is amazing to know that everything started here,” he said. “I will always remember how I asked the players for their tank tops after the games back then when I helped out as ball retriever. It was an incredible feeling to be so close to my idols. One year I even collected more than 30 jerseys.”
Three years ago, Huber even fulfilled his childhood dream by defeating legendary Brazilian Ricardo Santos twice in the same season at events in China and Russia. “We won over Ricardo for the first time in 2013. This was very special to me. I mean, I collected more than five shirts from him when I was a kid. I would never have imagined to face him back then when I was a ball retriever – and all the sudden I even defeated him. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.”
That’s why talking to the ball retrievers in Klagenfurt has always been very special for Huber. “When I see the ball retrievers here in Klagenfurt, I always remember how it was for me back then,” said Huber, who is playing in his sixth A! Major Klagenfurt with Seidl. “I am already looking forward to the opportunity to play one of today’s ball retrievers in an international tournament one day.”
Not only does Huber have a strong bond with Klagenfurt, but so does his teammate Seidl, who calls the region around Klagenfurt his home. “I always enjoy to come back to Klagenfurt,” said the 26-year old Seidl. “It’s just amazing to live here on the shores of the Wörthersee. The lake, the weather, and the people are just perfect. I want to spend my whole life here in Klagenfurt.”
Seidl enjoys every second at his home tournament, especially sleeping in his own bed: “It is just a great feeling to play at such a tournament like the A1 Major Klagenfurt and have the possibility to go home after the matches. I always think about it when I arrive at home after a long game day.”
For Huber, the A1 Major Klagenfurt is a big reunion with friends and family. “We travel around the world most of the time and lot of my old friends live all over the world and Austria now; but they all come back to Klagenfurt for the Major,” said Huber. “That’s why it’s very special for me to play here in Klagenfurt. It’s just like coming home.”
And this pit stop at home can be very crucial for the two Austrian, most of all since they are going to fly directly to the Olympics in Rio after the tournament. “Having the opportunity to play your home tournament before the Rio 2016 is just amazing,” Huber said. “That’s why we would have never skipped this tournament even though we have to fly directly to Rio afterwards.”
Seidl still can’t believe that he is going to hunt for medals at the Olympic Games. “I still haven’t realized that I will play at Rio 2016 on Copacabana Beach,” said Seidl. “After having qualified at the CEV Continental Cup in Stavanger (Norway), we just haven’t had time to realize it until now. But no doubt, when we will land in Rio and head to the Centre Court, it will be very emotional.”