Doppler & Horst seek an easier road to Rio
Lausanne, Switzerland, April 18, 2015 - For SWATCH ProTeam players Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst, the “Road to Rio” has got to be an easier path to the 2016 Olympics for the Austrians than the route they traveled to the 2012 Summer Games when the veteran Beach Volleyball players qualified for London in the last tournament to set the field for the sport’s most prestigious event.
Doppler and Horst, who are scheduled to start their fourth season together on the FIVB World Tour at next month's Open event in Lucerne, Switzerland (May 13-17), will each be seeking their third Olympic berth as the Austrians competed with different partners in the Beijing 2008 Games. Horst placed fifth with Florian Gosch and Doppler placed ninth in Beijing with Peter Gartmayer.
“There will be nothing better than playing on the Copacabana Beach at the Rio 2016 Games,” said the 34-year old Doppler. “The plan right now is to finish this season (2015) in the top 16 on the FIVB World Tour. Let’s hope everything goes according to plan!” For the 32-year old Horst, “Copacabana is the perfect venue. Beach Volleyball will rock the Olympics!”
After forming their partnership at the start of the 2012 FIVB World Tour season, Doppler and Horst had to qualify for the London Games via Continental and World Cup competitions. The Austrian pair started the 2012 Olympic process with different partners and only played in five qualifying events together to amass 644 points, 2,756 points short of No. 16 spot on the qualifying list.
Knowing that qualifying among the top 16 teams in the world was “impossible”, Doppler and Horst joined forces with compatriots Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl to seek a London berth via the Continental and FIVB World Cup competitions. After Austria finished fourth in the Continental competition in Turkey, the teams of Doppler/Horst (7-0) and Huber/Seidl (5-1) compiled a 12-1 record in the Moscow World Cup event to net a London Olympic berth for the European country.
After being selected by the Austrian federation to represent the country in London, Doppler and Horst won one of three matches in a pool considered the “toughest” in the 2012 Games. Doppler and Horst lost a three-setter to eventual silver medal winners Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego of Brazil and a two-setter to Jefferson Bellaguarda and Patrick Heuscher of Switzerland.
Doppler and Horst’s two-set victory over fifth-place finishers Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai was impressive as the Italians ousted Beijing 2008 Olympic champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers of the United States in the second-round of elimination play in London.
Doppler, who has played in more FIVB events (140) than any other Austrian player, is actually seeking his fourth Olympic berth. In 2004, Doppler also earned an Athens Games berth with Nikki Berger, but had to withdraw due to a knee injury suffered in a World Tour event in Marseille, France. Doppler and Berger entered the 2004 season as the seventh-ranked team in the world.
Rebounding from a second knee injury ranks as one of Doppler’s most memorable moments in an international beach volleyball career that started in 1996 when he was 15-years old. “Winning a the gold medal with Peter (Gartmayer) at the 2007 European Championships in Valencia (Spain) exactly one year after my second knee injury was memorable and very satisfying,” he noted.
It was Doppler’s second European title as he topped the continental championship podium in 2003 with Berger in Alanya, Turkey. Doppler, who is considered one of the international tour’s top servers, hitters and blockers, has also won two non-European Championship events with Horst in 2012 and 2013.
Being one of the world’s top defenders, Horst played in his first FIVB event in 2003 as a 20-year old. The 2007 season marked his first full season on the international circuit as he and Gosch netted a bronze medal in Finland for only Austria’s second FIVB medal. Doppler and Berger captured the first with a bronze medal at the 2003 opening World Tour event in Rhodes, Greece.
But for Horst, the Finnish finish was not his most memorable moment in the sport. “It was winning an opening pool play match in 2006 at Klagenfurt against top-seeded Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes of Brazil,” said Horst. “Sebastian (Goettlinger) and I were two no-names and we upset the defending world champions in front of our family and friends in Klagenfurt.”
Playing in Klagenfurt on the centre court will always rank as “memorable moments” for any Austrian players. “It’s the one and only place to play,” said Doppler, who suffered his second knee injury in Klagenfurt in 2006. It was a week after Doppler and Gartmayer had placed second in the European Masters in Valencia.
Bouncing back from a third knee injury suffered in 2013 European Championships at Klagenfurt, Doppler teamed again with Horst to placed third in last June’s European Championships in Cagliari, Italy. A week earlier, Doppler and Horst placed second in the 2014 Baden Masters.
With more experience together for the Rio Olympic cycle, Doppler and Horst enter the 2015 FIVB season with 23 World Tour events together. After their London elimination, the Austrians bounced back in the next 2012 event to place second in the FIVB Grand Slam stop in Stare Jablonki for their best finish together.
The Polish site has been a good location for Doppler and Horst. The pair placed fourth in the 2014 Stare Jablonki stop after finishing ninth in 2013 when Poland hosted the World Championships. Doppler and Horst have a 53-47 career match mark together and enter the 2015 season as the 23rd ranked team in the world after playing in only eight of 17 events last season.
To prepare for the 2015 campaign, the Austrians spent time at “our home base in Vienna where we have three indoor and three outdoor beach volleyball courts,” said Horst. “We had camps in the Canary Islands (Tenerife and Fuerteventura), and spent time in Los Angeles” As for Team Doppler/Horst, Robert Nowotny, a 2004 Austrian Olympian with Gartmayer in Athens, has been the leader since 2013. “He is doing nearly everything for us. Management, Press and all the stuff on the court,” said Horst. “We’ll also travel with a statistic guy and a physio to all the events.”
With more experience together entering the 2016 Olympic qualifying process, Doppler and Horst hope their “Road to Rio” is an easier path to travel as compare to their “lane” to London in 2012.