As the 2018 FIVB Beach Majors Series looks to its opening stop in Fort Lauderdale next week, VolleyMob is checking in with last year’s top teams to get their thoughts on the site, the tournament, and the rest of the four-stop best in the world series. So far, we have chatted with series organizer Hannes Jagerhofer, Brazilian gold medalists Alvaro/Saymon and American bronze medalists Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena.
Next up, 2017 bronze medalists Julia Sude and Chantal Laboureur of Germany share memories of last year’s event, their thoughts on the rest of the 2018 events as well as their partnership and goals.
What are your memories of earning the bronze in Fort Lauderdale at the Five Star last February?
Julia Sude: It was a perfect way for us to start the season with a medal! The first tournament is always a surprise because you don’t know after the winter break where you and the other teams stand and how everyone is performing in competition again.
The Fort Lauderdale major is the only one played on an actual beach. What difference, if any, does that make in your game?
Chantal Laboureur: For me it doesn’t make a big difference on the court, as you can find different conditions on actual beaches as well as on the courts built in the cities. Off the court, of course, it is a luxury to have the sea right in front of you. You see other people playing beach volleyball or just hanging around and it gives you a real BEACH volleyball feeling.
What is the crowd/match environment like in Fort Lauderdale?
Julia Sude: Its amazing! The people here are crazy about beach volleyball and sports in general. They admire all athletes who are competing in the tournament and its a nice feeling when you get supported from the crowd. They have so much fun watching games and dancing!
You tend to play well in the Beach Major Series, consistently finishing near the top. Describe what it is like to play in the Beach Volleyball Major Series, with the level of competition, the crowd, the atmosphere, etc.
Chantal Laboureur: Well, in the Majors tournaments the best teams of the world compete, no team wants to miss a major event. So, it is top level competition with a top level organization, not only for the athletes, but also for the partners of our sport and fans. Once you join this event, you want to come back – athletes AND fans! Its such a great feeling to see that there is no single seat left in the stadium. People are waiting in queues to see you playing. Like Hannes Jagerhofer’s motto: Goosebumps don’t lie!
Does that type of environment help you succeed?
Julia Sude: We try to play always the same no matter if there are three spectators or a full arena but OF COURSE its so much more fun if there is a crazy crowd cheering for the athletes!
You both have been playing professionally for several years now and this is your sixth year together as a pair. How have you changed individually and as a pair?
Chantal Laboureur: The more you know each other, the more you can develop as a team. We changed our game a lot and always try to develop new things. After playing together for so many years, you can put your focus to different things as other things work out almost automatically.
What have you been working on in practice in the offseason to climb further up the podium after several fifth place finishes in 2017?
Julia Sude: We will try to bring more stability in our game and each element, but we also have been working on some surprise elements which we can’t tell now.
You won the Gstaad Five Star last year. Are you happy to be going back there later this year for another round?
Chantal Laboureur: Ha ha, of course we are! Gstaad is the closest tournament for us as we are living quite close to the Swiss border, so we call this almost our “home tournament”. Gstaad is a fixed tournament in the FIVB calendar for more than 20 years now. To win this was one of our big dreams and, of course, we aim for winning it again (as Julie loves so much the cowbell that you receive if you finish on the podium).
The beach championships are in Hamburg for the second straight year. Talk about the emotion of being able to possibly play for a title in your home country.
Julia Sude: Its amazing that Germany got the World Champs and we are really looking forward to fighting for the title in our home country! We played the World Tour Finals there and Hamburg is a beautiful city with people who are really connected to our sport! Its going to be a great event!!
With your countrywomen Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst out due to Laura’s pregnancy, does that put more pressure on you and the other German pairs to represent your country well?
Chantal Laboureur: We are really happy for Laura and Morph, must be an incredible adventure! For our part, we don’t feel more pressure as we are always looking at our own performance and results. We learned that during the last (few) years.