For a decade, German beach volleyball stood for Olympic victories and World Cup medals. But at the current World Championships in Rome, which start on June 10th, Germany is only playing the role of the outsider.
Just one men’s team and four women’s duos are at the start. Jonas Reckermann, 43, talks about the situation and about the problems and what gives hope for the future. He won Olympic gold in London in 2012 with Julius Brink.
WORLD: Mr. Reckermann, Germany used to be represented by several duos at world championships – mostly with good chances of medals. How do you rate the current situation with only one men’s team at the World Cup?
Jonas Reckermann: It’s currently very poor in the men’s field. At the Olympics we only had one pair at the start. This is now the continuation at the World Cup, because unfortunately not much has followed in recent years. Something like that often runs cyclically, at the moment we are lacking the experienced players who could bring the young talents who are definitely available to the top international level.
WORLD: Nils Ehlers and Clemens Wickler start at the World Cup – a newly assembled team. What do you think these two are capable of?
Reckermann: Nils hasn’t been able to play at this top level consistently so far, so he needs to gain experience first. Clemens has a very high playing ability, knows the world class. Recently, the shape curve went up. That’s good for them because they realize that they can keep up. But they are not yet established at the top of the world.
WORLD: Wickler’s previous partner Julius Thole, with whom he became vice world champion in 2019, ended his career in 2021 to concentrate on his law studies. He was just 24. Do you understand his decision?
Reckermann: His step is consistent and also understandable given his non-sporting professional ambitions. Of course, the resignation hurt German beach volleyball a lot. With that, the only truly world-class team fell apart.
WORLD: Thole was certainly an exceptional case, but what about the earning potential in beach volleyball in general?
Reckermann: If you don’t make it to the top relatively quickly, you have to ask yourself: Is it a financed hobby or can I make a living from it so that I can put something aside? Because you need money to bridge the period between the end of your career and starting a job. Because of sport, you usually start later in your professional life than the others. Many decide to quit in their mid to late 20s and start their careers afterwards.
WORLD: How did the Corona crisis, with hardly any tournaments, contribute to the loss of talent?
Reckermann: During the Corona period, fewer talents will certainly dare to step out of the hall into the sand. Without tournaments there was no prize money and sponsors. As a result, players tended to stay indoors, where income was more secure to begin with.
WORLD: Who gives hope to men?
Reckermann: A team like Sven Winter and Paul Henning is very fresh. Sven brings a lot with him from the facilities, but has unfortunately been injured more than once. Paul still has little beach volleyball experience. Open to where it’s going, but they definitely have potential. In the men’s field, we are currently relatively far from having numerous young players who are on the move.
WORLD: For women, the top indoor player Louisa Lippmann moves to the beach, but is just learning the basics. What do you think of her?
Reckermann: Of course she brings a lot with her, she’s an all-rounder. But it remains to be seen how it works on the beach, the past has shown that even the superstars of the indoor scene need time to mature into world class on the sand.
WORLD: How do you rate the World Cup chances for women? Four duos start with Borger/Sude, Müller-Tillmann, Ittlinger/Schneider and Laboureur/Schulz.
Reckermann: We are quite broadly positioned there. Every duo can do well, but I don’t see any team that will consistently achieve podium finishes over the long term. There is no one in the narrow circle of favorites – even with Borger/Sude, precious metal would be more of a surprise. We currently lack the team that can go to the World Cup with self-confidence and say: We’ll get this thing.
WORLD: Cinja Tillmann and Svenja Müller recently won a top tournament in Ostrava.
Reckermann: I’m glad that we have a ray of hope in Svenja Müller. She is just 21 and, in addition to her height of 1.92 meters, brings a lot with her. She could finally be a block player again for the next few years who can compete internationally. Cinja is a worker who doesn’t necessarily stand out physically. I think it’s really good that their efforts are rewarded. She is currently molding a young player. But you shouldn’t immediately expect them to be the new top team for the 2024 Olympics.