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Germans' chase to Copacabana ends in Hamburg

The German players are hoping for full grandstands at the Am Rothenbaum stadium when the sand is leveled for Beach Volleyball June 7-12 at the US$800,000 Hamburg Major.
Hamburg, Germany, June 3, 2016 - Months on the road chasing their Olympic dream come down to one week to tell their story of 2016. And for two German Beach Volleyball teams, their dreams will either be realized or dashed on their home soil.

But the US$800,000 Hamburg Major, the final event of the 2016 Rio Olympics cycle in which teams can accrue points for qualification, comes with a little bit of a twist.  The city chosen this time around is not regular FIVB World Tour stop Berlin, which just happens to be the hometowns of Ilke Semmler, Katrin Holtwick, Kay Matysik and Jonathan Erdmann.

No enthusiasm has been dampened, however.

“It’s always good to play in Germany,” Holtwick said.  â€œThe last years were in Berlin, our real hometown, so it was maybe even more cool than Hamburg but a tournament in Germany is great.  In the last couple of years we’ve performed quite well in the German events.  Only in 2014 it was not that good.  In years before it was a good place to perform so we are looking forward to Hamburg.”

Holtwick is looking forward to see the reaction of the fans to players from around the world celebrating their Olympic dreams.

“I think that’s amazing,” Holtwick said.  â€œEveryone was waiting for such a moment and now it comes to the end in Hamburg.  It’s great for all of us.”

Of course, playing in front of family and friends can add distractions and a little extra pressure to the proceedings.  For the two German teams, they’ll trade that when weighed against the pressure they face in order to make the cut for the Olympics.

Erdmann and Matysik enter the week as the last team in on the men’s Provisional Olympic Rankings - and they are tied with compatriots Marcus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen.  Either of the teams could move up or be knocked out as the tournament unfolds.

“For sure I will be really, really happy. I will celebrate one week,” Erdmann said with a small laugh when asked to envision qualifying on the sand in Hamburg.  â€œIt would be nice to make our spot safe when it goes to Hamburg because then we are more relaxed.  When it goes to the last tournament and it’s still not set - yeah, I know you guys (in the media) want drama - but I would like to make it earlier to be as safe as possible.

“But if we have to finish in Hamburg and it goes good, it would be so nice being at home with family, with friends also as a federation they are working really hard in the background.  So let’s see what happens in Hamburg.

“Hopefully Lars and Bookie are ready in again.  It’s interesting for Germany.  We have to fight for a gold medal.  Germans got the gold in London, so it’s an honor to go there as the gold medal country defending the spot.”

Yes, the London 2012 Olympics was a turning point for Beach Volleyball in Germany.  A new generation of inspiration arose when Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann emerged to capture the Olympic title.

Their influence has not been overlooked.  In addition to the fight to the finish among the two German men’s teams, the German women have four teams that are Olympic caliber.  Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst lead the way, with Karla Borger and Britta Buthe holding a slight edge over Holtwick and Semmler for the country’s final spot.  And if Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude played for just about any other country, they’d likely be bound for Rio de Janeiro in August.

“It was a great impact because Beach Volleyball is not known as a sport in Germany as maybe soccer or basketball or hockey and stuff like that,” Semmler said of the gold-medal impact.  â€œStill, there’s a long way to go for more knowing the sport in Germany.  It was already a good start that they won the gold medal and I think if you ask people in Germany who won the gold medal in Beach Volleyball, most of the people can say it was Brink/Reckermann.

“If it’s the World Tour in Germany it’s even better, because people are more enthusiastic about having teams from other countries in Germany and see how different people play.  It will be a great atmosphere in Hamburg.”

Erdmann/Matysik and Holtwick/Semmler have played well in German events over the years.  The men, in three FIVB Berlin tour stops, have won eight of their 13 matches.  Holtwick and Semmler, meanwhile, are 11-8 in their Berlin matches with one silver medal plus a fourth-place finish.

They just might need that extra burst of energy with the cheers of the German fans at just the right times.  It’s a sound they don’t get traveling the world on the rest of the FIVB World Tour.

“I think it’s an extra bonus,” Erdmann said.  â€œAlso I know my family is coming and that they’ll try to help us as much as they can and it’s always nice to feel a little bit more at home.  When it gets close and tied and something, there’s a difference to win a match.

“I also like it in Brazil when they make like ‘Booooo, put the ball in the net,’ or ‘Germany sucks.’  That’s nice because then you have the chance to stop them.  Against the Brazilian teams, for example, you recognize how the emotion gets lower and lower and in the end they are really quiet.  Then you know OK, you did a good job.”

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