Toronto, Ontario, Canada, September 21, 2016 - Of the 24 teams who took their shot at winning the record $100,000 at the SWATCH World Tour Finals this past week, there was one unanimous sentiment that each of the 48 participants expressed.
As exciting and dramatic as it was for the fans during the chase for the Rio 2016 Olympics on the FIVB World Tour, it was completely taxing on the players physically, mentally and emotionally.
It was the end of a long run for the players and two Olympians, Josh Binstock of Canada and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland, announced their retirements as the World Tour Finals came to a close. German Olympian Britta Buthe revealed her retirement plans, joining her countrywomen Ilke Semmler and Katrin Holtwick, during the German championships following the Olympics.
How grueling was it for some players? Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor played in 26 tournaments to get the best Olympic qualifying spot possible. Holtwick/Semmler, plus fellow Germans Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude, played in 25 events and fell just short of a berth in Brazil.
Olympic silver medallists Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas announced their split as a duo following the Olympics after playing in 41 FIVB World Tour tournaments together, winning the 2015 World Championship in The Hague.
Which, in part, brings us to the offseason drama that will lead into the 2017 FIVB World Tour season, a circuit that is certain to have its own flavour as the cycle for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics begins to take shape.
The unprecedented depth of Germany’s women’s programme will be tested.
With the retirement of Zumkehr, the next generation of Swiss stars will be on display, including Zumkehr’s partner, Joana Heidrich. Anouk Verge-Depre, 24, is already an Olympian and the young team of Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart is ready to take center stage after announcing their arrival with a bronze-medal finish in the A1 Major Klagenfurt.
The United States teams are also certain to undergo changes. Olympians Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson are 40 and 36 respectively, with Gibb having the chance to become the first four-time Olympian in his country’s history. So does Phil Dalhausser, 36, the gold medallist from Beijing in 2008.
On the women’s side, will Kerri Walsh Jennings try to become a six-time Olympian? In addition to her three gold medals and one bronze on the beach, she competed for the USA indoor team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
One player who has inspired the tour is 43-year-old John Hyden of the United States, who came close to qualifying for the Olympics with Tri Bourne, but did reach the World Tour Finals and finished with a bronze medal. Hyden said he will play at least one more year with Bourne and see then if he’s geared up for another Olympic run.