Toronto, Canada, September 18, 2016 - Switzerland’s Nadine Zumkehr stood on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals podium and whispered something to her partner, Joana Heidrich.
“What an amazing way to end my career,” Zumkehr said to Heidrich, as a sold-out crowd applauded her for winning the silver medal. “This is a big, big privilege.”
Zumkehr, 31, who represented Switzerland at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, announced that the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals would be her final tournament. She will continue to play for fun, but not competitively.
“I don’t know if I will ever find anything in my life that will give me so many emotions,” she said.
Zumkehr, who began her FIVB career in 2005, has played with Heidrich since 2013.
“She gave everything for this game,” Heidrich said. “This was the perfect moment to stop.”
Anouk Verge-Depre, who won the bronze medal in Toronto, grew up watching Zumkehr in Switzerland.
“She is one of the most successful players in our sport,” Verge-Depre said. “She is a role model to a lot of young girls.
Zumkehr was not the only player to announce her retirement in Toronto.
Canada’s Josh Binstock was able to announce his retirement in front of his home fans. Binstock, who represented his country at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is a chiropractor when he’s not playing beach volleyball.
He was honored during the women’s medal ceremony, with adoring fans waving Canadian flags and chanting “Dr. Josh.”
"Doctor" Josh Binstock (right) hits against Mariusz Prudel of Poland in his last match at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto
“I’m glad that I wasn’t asked to speak, because I would have been too emotional,” said Binstock, 35. “It is so special that the timing of my career allowed me to do this at home.”
Fellow Canadian Ben Saxton, who finished fourth in Toronto, was asked about Binstock.
“I hope he stays involved with the sport because he has meant a lot to Canadian beach volleyball,” Saxton said.
In addition to the two athletes, a respected referee ended his career in Toronto.
Brazil’s Elzir Oliveira is retiring after more than 20 years of international refereeing. He was a member of the first class of FIVB referees in 1996. Since then, he has officiated 4,780 matches, including three Olympic Games and nine World Championships.
“He is one of the top, top referees ever,” said FIVB BVB Refereeing Commissioner Jose Casanova. “I am trying to keep him involved because we need his experience.”
This year Oliveira worked at the Rio Olympics, including the men’s bronze medal match. It was extra special because he was born in Rio.
“It was fantastic to end my Olympic career in my home city,” said Oliveira, who hopes to stay involved in the sport and help the FIVB in other ways.
His final assignment was the women’s gold medal match at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals. Afterwards, he was recognized on the court. The fans gave him a standing ovation, and he received hugs from the players and his fellow referees. Casanova presented him with an autographed volleyball.
“When I saw the crowd clapping, I got very emotional,” Oliveira said. “It was difficult not to cry.”
Elzir Oliveira (center) shakes hand with fellow retiree Josh Binstock as Jose Casanova honors the FIVB referee.