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Mazury Orlen Grand Slam | Women
  13/08/2012 - 18/08/2012

Montagnolli says farewell after 15 years on World Tour

Sara Montagnolli (right) retired from beach volleyball after 15 years playing on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour
Stare Jablonki, Poland, August 16, 2012 – Austria’s Sara Montagnolli brought the curtain down on her 15-year beach volleyball career with a first round exit from the Mazury Orlen Grand Slam on Thursday.

For her final tournament she teamed up with Verena Kaiser, who she knows from her hometown of Innsbruck. While they lost all three of their matches, the smiles didn’t leave their faces for one second.

“After Klagenfurt we knew we were going to play here, but we knew we would play for fun. I’ve played here with a 37-year-old mother and I’m really grateful that she said yes to me and my challenge. We had fun. I just wanted to finish with a fun tournament. That is why we play.”

Montagnolli has seen vast changes to the sport of beach volleyball since she made her debut at the 1998 Vasto Open in Italy, where she played alongside Nicole Gaksch. In total she played 154 Tour tournaments, with third place at the 2010 Marseille Open her best result. She also won silver with Barbara Hansel at the 2011 European Championships.

“Over the last four years, things are getting harder and harder and short players are dying out,” she said. “Everyone is getting much more professional. Players are getting stronger; they make sharper spikes and make stronger blocks.”

Montagnolli spent the first four years on the World Tour switching between volleyball in the winter and beach volleyball in the summer. It was only in 2004 that she and then partner Sabine Swoboda decided to focus on beach volleyball.

They decided to pool their money, travel to Rio de Janeiro and find a coach. It was a move that paid dividends and the pair firmly established themselves on the World Tour. In particular the 2009 and 2010 Klagenfurt Grand Slams stand out after she and Hansel went all the way to the semifinals before finishing fourth on both occasions.

“It is fun if you play really well, it is incredible,” she said. “When you are on court the crowd is incredible. You are at home and you want to show why you play, why you train. You want do something and you want to show your friends what you can do. 2009 and 2010 were incredible.”

With her career now behind her, Montagnolli has a number of projects lined up, notably at the University of Innsbruck. Even so her career in beach volleyball has allowed her to make friends around the world and see places she would not ordinarily have seen.

“I doubt I would have been in Osaka, I doubt I would have been in Adelaide,” she said. “I am grateful that I could see half the world.”
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