FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Lucerne Open | 12 - 17 mai 2015


Press release

Zumkehr & Heidrich scaling new heights on FIVB World Tour

Joana Heidrich (left) and Nadine Zumkehr prepare for the FIVB World Tour stop in Lucerne

Lucerne, Switzerland, May 6, 2015 - For the past decade, Nadine Zumkehr has made a name for herself on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour as she was part of Switzerland’s first-ever gold medal winning women’s beach volleyball team on the international circuit.

She fulfilled a “dream” in qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games with two-time gold medal partner Simone Kuhn where the Swiss pair's quest of a podium placement at the Horse Guard Parade was stymied by the eventual silver medal winning duo of Jen Kessy and April Ross of the United States.

Now, the 30-year old Zumkehr has her sights set on a return to the spotlight as one of the world’s elite beach volleyball teams and qualifying for her second Olympic Games in Rio with the up-and-coming Joana Heidrich. The SWATCH ProTeam pair will start their quest for a 2016 Olympic berth in Rio next month on home sand in Lucerne for an Open event May 12-17.

In only two seasons together with 18 FIVB World Tour events to their credit, Zumkehr and Heidrich have posted three fifth-place finishes together. Two of the fifths were back-to-back at events in Switzerland (Gstaad) and the Netherlands (The Hague) where higher-seeded teams from beach volleyball power Brazil eliminated Zumkehr and Heidrich.

Those two events were a “coming out” party of 23-year old Heidrich as the Swiss pair upset the highly-regarded American pair of April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings in Gstaad in two sets before losing their bid for the “final four” to Brazilian Olympians Maria Antonelli and Juliana Felisberta in three sets.

“Defeating the Americans was one of the most memorable moments in my life,” said Heidrich. “Beating one of the world’s best team is always very satisfying, especially since one of the players (Walsh Jennings) is a person I idolize.”

The next week in The Hague, Zumkehr and Heidrich defeated the Brazilian Salgado sisters and the powerful German duo of Laura Ludwig/Julia Sude to advance to the quarterfinals.  The Swiss were eliminated by eventual The Hague champions Fernanda Alves and Taiana Lima. However, Zumkehr and Heidrich cashed in their biggest FIVB paycheck together ($21,000) in The Hague, the prelude event prior to this year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships The Netherlands 2015.

While Zumkehr started playing the FIVB World Tour as a 20-year-old in 2005 when she advanced to the final four at the U21 World Championships with Muriel Graessli on Copacabana Beach, Heidrich started playing on the international stage in 2010 as an 18-year-old.

Heidrich’s gold medal effort with Nina Betschart at the 2011 U21 FIVB World Championships in Halifax, Canada, launched her onto the bigger stage the following year where she and Romana Kayser played in nine FIVB World Tour events together with a pair of ninth-place finishes in Gstaad and Thailand.

More importantly for Heidrich, the experience of playing in the Continental and World Cup qualifying process helped with her learning to compete against the world’s best players in a pressure-packed situation. In an effort to qualify a second Swiss women’s team for London, Heidrich and Kayser did their part in the World Cup finals in Moscow with four match wins, but the European country did not advance out of pool play as the second Alps pair won only two matches.

Those successes in 2011 in Canada and 2012 in Moscow made Heidrich the logical partner for Zumkehr as Kuhn was retiring from the sport after a 12 year career on the FIVB World Tour with three Olympic appearances and a fifth-place finish in the 2003 World Championships in Rio with Nicole Schnyder-Benoit. Kuhn and Schnyder-Benoit won the European Championships the following year before being eliminated in the Athens Olympics in a three-set pool play match against eventual bronze medal winners Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States.

What makes the Swiss partnership promising is Heidrich’s height (1.91m, 6’3”) as compared to Kuhn’s (1.84m, 6’0”). Zumkehr ranks among the top defenders on the international circuit and with Heidrich’s blocking and hitting powers, the two will surely better their previous FIVB World Tour rankings of 15th and 22nd the past two seasons.

Zumkehr, who was disappointed with play in the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Heidrich are focused on Rio 2016.  “A big goal,” said Zumkehr. “I really want to achieve together with Joana! But there are many small steps we have to do on our way to Rio. I want to enjoy this journey the whole way, no matter if it ends in Rio or not. But I believe that we'll be able to be a team that's not going to be easy to beat in Rio!”

With high ambitions, the Swiss duo from similar small villages in the Alps are seeking to scale to the top of the Olympic mountain to achieve their goal of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Summer Games.

Here is a Q&A session with Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr prior to the start of the 2015 FIVB World Tour where the Swiss will make their season debut in Lucerne, Switzerland during the second week of May (12-17).

What was the exact year that you started playing beach volleyball?
Heidrich: “I started playing beach volleyball when I was 17 years old on the Swiss junior tour. I still play both indoor and beach volleyball.”
Zumkehr: “I have been playing in beach volleyball events since 1998. It was mostly just for fun and without knowing anything about this sport. I really liked it and played some more years for fun, before I started to play with ambitions, training and more expectations in 2005!”

How did you become interested in playing beach volleyball?
Heidrich: “I was 13 and the play of Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel (Swiss bronze medal winners) at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games really inspired me. From then on, I knew I wanted to play beach volleyball and go to the Olympic Games.”
Zumkehr: “A friend of mine on the indoor team played beach volleyball. She was much older than me and needed a partner for some junior events, because her partner was older.  She asked me and I tried it. I loved it from the first moment on!”

What was the most difficult area of the sport that you had to learn to become a world-class beach volleyball player?
Heidrich: “If you do not play well, you cannot be switched off the court like indoor. You have to be much stronger mentally.”
Zumkehr: “I had to learn how to loose. If you play bad in our sport, you cannot be switched off the court like indoor. I had to accept that I cannot always play my best and in these moments I had to take responsibility for the loss of my team!”

What was the easiest aspect of beach volleyball that you had to learn?
Heidrich: “The places you go to training camp are beautiful. So traveling to the different locations in the world is very enjoyable.”
Zumkehr: “It is hard to say. It was quite easy for me to learn how to handle team-affairs. I don't get mad quickly at anyone except myself. I don't have a problem accepting if my partner plays not her best. Way more difficult for me to handle myself if I play bad.”

What is the strength of your current beach volleyball partnership?
Heidrich: “We are both very ambitious and determined.  Although we are two totally different personalities, we both learn something from each other. This is a benefit and can help us to become a very good team.”
Zumkehr:  “I think we are hard to beat if we both use our strengths, because we are very different personalities. If we both focus on ourselves, we are a very strong team in my opinion! We need to get more consistent in our game, if this works out, I really think we can be a very good fit!”

What is the most memorable moment in your beach volleyball career?
Heidrich: “Winning the FIVB U21 World Championship in 2011 in Canada. Defeating Ross (April) and Walsh Jennings (Kerri) last year in Gstaad before our families, friends and fans. Beating one of the world’s best team is always very satisfying.”
Zumkehr: “The bronze in 2012 at Gstaad with Simone (Kuhn) in front of our home crowd, family and friends! It was very emotional! And the gold medal in Rome, just some weeks before Gstaad!”

Any beach volleyball disappointments?
Heidrich: “Many, but I always remember all those matches I lost when I did not play well and made some stupid mistakes.”
Zumkehr: “Many, but that's part of being an athlete. I was very disappointed after my bad performance in one of our pool play matches in the London Olympics. That's one I'll always remember.”

What is your favorite site for playing beach volleyball?
Heidrich: “Gstaad. I love to play there as all our friends and family come and watch. It is great because all the people are always behind you even if it you are not playing so well.”
Zumkehr: “Gstaad!  It's my home tournament, not far away from the village I grew up! It makes me proud to see how excited the other players are about the environment I grew up in! Besides Gstaad, I always like it if an event is directly on a beach, so the Rio 2016 Olympic Games should be really exciting.”

Any idols outside of the sport of beach volleyball? How has this individual or individuals influenced or impacted your life?
Heidrich: “My mother and brothers are very important people in my life. Roger Federer is an idol. He is not only a great athlete, he is a terrific person.”
Zumkehr: “My parents are very important persons in my life! And in sports, as for many athletes in the world and especially in Switzerland, Roger Federer is an idol not only as an athlete, but also as a person!”

Do you “idolize” anyone in the sport of beach volleyball? If you have an idol(s), what makes them so “special”?
Heidrich: “Kerri Walsh Jennings. She has a great personality and plays the game with a lot of energy. I really respect her.”
Zumkehr: “Not really an idol. In the end I want to compete against all of these players. But for sure there are players that are very inspiring to me. Misty May-Treanor was one of these. And as a beach volleyball player, I always was and still am very impressed by Larissa Franca. She's an incredibly good player and has an incredible sense for our game. She impresses me a lot, which doesn't mean I don't believe that we're not able to beat her team.”

What was the best advice you were given about playing beach volleyball?
Heidrich: “Never stop having fun.”
Zumkehr: “Never forget it's a privilege to make a living out of your passion and never stop having fun while playing!”

What about the "Road to Rio" and the 2016 Olympic Games? What are your thoughts and impressions a year prior to the festivities?
Heidrich: “A big goal. I really want to achieve this goal together with Nadine! But there are many small steps we have to take on our way to Rio. I believe that we will be a good team that’s not going to be easy to beat in Rio!”
Zumkehr: “I want to enjoy this journey the whole way, no matter if it ends in Rio or not.  But I believe that we'll be able to be a team that's not gonna be easy to beat in Rio!”

Once you complete your beach volleyball career, what will you do?
Heidrich: “I hope to have a nice man at my side and have a family with him. And having more time with my closest friends around me.”
Zumkehr: “Hope to have a family, work as a teacher and enjoy having more time at home with my closest people around me!

Where did you do your pre-season training and practicing in preparation for the 2015 season?
Heidrich & Zumkehr: “We worked at home in our training center in Bern during winter.  We went to Tenerife for two weeks in February and three weeks in April to train with international teams and to get used to the outdoor conditions!”

What do you think about the Swatch Major Series?
Heidrich: “I’m really excited to play these events. The Major Series provides more opportunities to expand the exposure of the sport.”
Zumkehr: “The Swatch Major Series are a big chance for our sport, I'm excited about the events and I'm sure that they will bring beach volleyball a big step further in terms of popularity!

Will you prepare differently for the events in Poreč, Stavanger and Gstaad as compared to other FIVB stops?
Heidrich & Zumkehr: “We'll prepare the Major Series in the same way as the other FIVB Grand Slams, they're all important to us! For sure Gstaad is special and very important for us! But we hope to have even more fun while playing on the
Swatch Major Series events!”

With Stavanger and Gstaad being "established" sites, what are your thoughts about playing in Poreč?
Heidrich: “I’m really excited since my father lives in Croatia (Raslina, 424 km south of Poreč), so he will come to watch me.”
Zumkehr: “I'm excited to get to see a new site, new city and a country I never visited before, even if I heard a lot of positive things about Croatia! Looking forward to this event!”

This year, Klagenfurt, with the support of Swatch as a presenting sponsors, will be hosting the CEV European Championships, but starting 2016 it will become a stop of the Major Series. What are your expectations for this competition?
Heidrich: “Klagenfurt is one of the best places. I love that the competition is on the lake and the crowd is crazy.”
Zumkehr: “Klagenfurt is always great! The crowd is crazy and the event is exceptional! Not to talk about the food. It is incredible! The European Championships are important, we would really love to get a medal, which is hard to achieve because we have a lot of good teams in Europe! It's going to be tough, but it's possible!”

For the first time in beach volleyball history, a season’s final will be held in Fort Lauderdale (USA) with the ongoing support of Swatch. Teams will be able to qualify according to their current World Tour ranking points with a record prize-money of $100,000 paid to both the winners of the Men's and Women’s competitions - the highest pay check in beach volleyball ever! What are your impressions and how will you approach this closing event?
Heidrich: “To reach Fort Lauderdale means that we are one of the top teams in the world.  That’s a goal.”
Zumkehr: “We aren't thinking about the season's finale right now. We want to play well throughout the season and if we do so, we'll have a chance to qualify for this event! If we do qualify, we're going to go full out for this pay check, that's for sure!”

When did you become part of the Swatch ProTeam?
Heidrich: “In 2013, when I started playing with Nadine! I’m a lucky girl to be playing with a great partner.”
Zumkehr: “In 2009, when I started playing with Simone Kuhn, who was already a Swatch ProTeam member before!”

What makes it special about being a Swatch ProTeam athlete?
Heidrich: “Swatch is one of the best known brands in Switzerland. When I was a kid, I always wanted all the beautiful coloured watches. I was so happy when I became a member of the Swatch ProTeam. I am very proud to represent such a cool brand.”
Zumkehr: “Swatch is a very traditional brand in Switzerland, to be an ambassador for this brand makes me very proud! Every kid knows what a Swatch is, and every kid wants one.  To be part of the Swatch ProTeam alongside with all these other athletes in different, all very fun sports, is an honour to me!”

If you could define Swatch in one word, what would that be?
Heidrich: “Resourceful.”
Zumkehr: “Creative!”

What’s your favorite Swatch watch or collection?

Heidrich: “Many, but I really love Dreamnight Rose.”
Zumkehr: “Many, one from every collection. At the moment, I wear 'Wild Totem' a lot.  'White in Blue' is also great! And as soon as the Swatch TouchZero One is out, I'll be a fan.  It is a watch specially made for our sport. How cool is this?”

As a Swatch athlete, how do you feel about the brand’s ongoing support of beach volleyball?
Heidrich: “I think it's perfect that this brand is supporting our sport. Swatch is creative, athletic and appeals to many young people.”
Zumkehr: “Since I was a Swatch athlete when they were the main sponsor of the FIVB World Tour 2003-2012), it's kind of 'feeling home again! I missed having this brand directly linked to our sport and I'm very happy and thankful to Swatch that they decided to be back in this sport also as an event or tour sponsor!”

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