London 2012

Press release

"Watch out for Team USA, they're strong" says Germany head coach Vital Heynen

Vital Heynen is Germany's coach only since this past April but that was already enough for a memorable summer

London, Great Britain, July 26, 2012 – Only three months ago Vital Heynen was given the task to mentor Germany national team with the goal to qualify this side for the 2012 London Olympics after their campaign at last year’s European Championship had turned into a real failure.

Via the experience and know-how he had accumulated by coaching Belgium’s sensation Noliko Maaseik for the past few years, Heynen embarked on this adventure with the right attitude and enthusiasm. He did not change much in the composition of the group, but his innovative and refreshing approach immediately produced results that only a few could have hoped for. Germany qualified for the Olympics via the home tournament played in Berlin this past June besting there 2010 world silver medalists Cuba and continued its run by advancing to the final round of the FIVB World League for the first time in history.

“We do not feel that much pressure” he says, “as this has already been the most successful season for Germany men’s national team in many years”. As his guys looked quite relaxed while enjoying a first practice in one of the warm-up courts set up in the venue of the Olympic tournament, Heynen was quick in pointing out: “They are always fully focused as they train, but I also think the players shall have their share of fun. This is my personal approach and the way I see my function. I would definitely regret or feel uncomfortable if one of my players said, by the end of a workout, that he has completed an ordinary training session, which indirectly means he has been working under the guidance of an average, ordinary coach”.

This past weekend, a few days before traveling to London, Germany joined the annual “Memorial Hubert Jerzy Wagner” in Zielona Gora, finishing second there after losing their second match to the home heroes of Poland (1:3), but besting Argentina and Iran. After dominating the final round of the FIVB World League in Sofia, the guys in red and white jerseys mentored by Italian-born Andrea Anastasi were almost unanimously seen as the top favorites for Olympic gold in London. Heynen does not fully agree with this prediction. “I would probably have shared that opinion a couple of weeks ago but last week as we crossed their ways in that invitational, I realized that their quality is no longer the same they had displayed in the World League. I think the expectations are so high at home that they have started feeling some pressure and this may impact on their performance. We lost that game 1:3 but the sets were close and with a little bit of luck, without counting the help of the audience and some controversial decisions by the referees, I think we could have brought it home”.

If Italy, in his opinion, is very much likely to make it to the semis having been assigned to a relatively easy group, Heynen feels people shall keep an eye on Team USA. The 2008 gold medalists have been going through many ups and downs after their magic moment in Beijing but have since re-grouped and performed well enough to finish second at the World League finals in Sofia. “They have got players with a lot of experience, Stanley, Priddy, Lambourne to name only a few, and they always play their best when it counts the most. If I had to pick out the top contenders for Olympic gold here in London, I’d surely go for the USA. I do not think I am wrong with my predictions, we’ll check this out in a couple of weeks” says with a smile the Belgian-born mentor.
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