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Björn Andrae

He is the most exciting thing in German volleyball.

Björn Andrae, tall and wiry, has reputably the fastest arm in the German national league. German media have been quoted as saying "when Björn Andrae spikes, he puts the kiss of death on everything he touches". No other player in Germany is able to spike as hard as the youngster from Friedrichshafen - two German Championships and two cup titles are testament to his prowess.

He's been likened to "the scud," Mark Philippoussis, the Australian tennis player who has one of the fastest but somewhat erratic service games in the world.

With the 2003 World League starting in May and the Men's World Championship in his home country this year obviously big things are expected of the 21-year-old. But this remarkably mature young man has the air of someone who welcomes the pressure of being one of Germany's hottest volleyball stars.

"I can let my arm fly quite well," Andrae said. "I am ambitious and I take heart in risking something.
"I love playing in the national team. I am honoured and proud, a shiver runs down my spine when I hear the National anthem but I know I have to improve. I have already been working on my reception and block for a long time."

At only 82 kg and 200cm Andrae has learnt to develop a ruthless approach to attack and made it an art form. The more important the service, the more important Andrae becomes. If a great strike comes at the right time, he can win a set nearly on his own. 
"At 23-23 you can't afford to zone out. Positive concentration is in demand. Sometimes I know for sure, 'now I'll make an ace'. These are magic moments."

While German coach Stelian Moculescu is satisfied with the progress of his protégé he isn't prepared to push him too quickly, especially in an important pre-Olympic year.

"He has made enormous progress," Moculescu lauds. "But Björn has to discover that development does not go in a steep way. There are plateaus of learning where you don't make any progress as a player. You need patience."

Andrae, who has taken a year's sabbatical from his social pedagogy studies, has always known what he has wanted. Since moving from Berlin, where his girlfriend Hella Jurich (a German 1st league player) and family live, to Friedrichshafen on the advice of Moculescu, club Volleyball in Italy has always been high on his list of priorities. But for the immediate future a World League campaign and a World Championship appearance in his hometown of Berlin will surpass all.