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Bloem and Wesselink enter European Championships with best result yet


Lasuanne, Switzerland, June 2, 2014 - The new Dutch beach volleyball partnership of Laura Bloem and Marloes Wesselink enter this week’s European Championships on the isle of Sardinia seeking to validate last week’s ninth-place finish at the FIVB World Tour stop in Anapa, Russia.

“Our goal for this season is to develop as a team and to play in as many main draws to achieve as many top 10 results as possible,” said 27-year old Marloes Wesselink.  “Our level of play has improved with each event and we are extremely pleased with a top 10 result last week.  For Laura, it was her first top 10 result, which is great!”

A regular on the FIVB World Tour since 2007 with 87 international events to her credit, Wesselink views each tournament as “an important step in our process and we hope to be a little better and stronger every week.  This week we have the European Championships in Italy and we are very excited to play.  Europe is an extremely strong continent, and it will be interesting to see who shows to be the strongest at the moment.”

Like most teams playing on the FIVB World Tour, the 2014 campaign is very important for Wesselink and the 24-year old Bloem, who played in her first international event in 2010 with 18 FIVB starts on her record.

“At the moment, we are the third Dutch team competing in the FIVB World Tour, so the competition will be strong from both inside and outside our own country,” said Wesselink, who captured a 2007 FIVB satellite event with Marleen Van Iersel. 

“We will have to work on our ranking this year to make a good start next year when the Olympic qualification process starts.  We definitely are going to battle for a spot at the Olympics so it will be interesting to see how this develops.  We are looking forward to this challenge and hope our partnership will grow stronger to give us a good chance in the next years towards Rio 2016.”

In addition to playing this season, both players are looking forward to the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships that will be hosted at four sites in The Netherlands.

“It is a great development that we will have at the World Championships next year in our country,” said Wesselink.  “We are very proud of that and obviously excited about it!  The past years, the FIVB World Tour Opens, European Championships and Grand Slam were held in Holland to help provide great growth for the sport.”

Wesselink feels the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships will be “an unforgettable experience and we cannot wait to play our games in one of the four host cities.  It is an interesting concept that four cities will be used to play, this will definitely result in great attention for Beach Volleyball in Holland.”

The 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, which will feature pool play leading to the elimination rounds, will be held in four Dutch cities - The Hague, Amsterdam, Apeldoorn and Rotterdam - for the first time in the tournament’s history.

“The locations are very cool ones,” said Wesselink. “The Damsquare in Amsterdam is known by everyone as a tourist spot with the Marketsquare in Apeldoorn, the Central Station in Rotterdam and the big floating stadium in the center of The Hague next to the political heart of the country.  These locations really put our sport in the spotlight and it will be an honor to represent Holland during the world championships in our own little country.”

Following the 2014 European Championships in Cagliari (Italy) where the Dutch will be represented by the women’s teams of Bloem/Wesselink (Pool G), Madelein Meppelink/Van Iersel (Pool F), Rimke Braakman/Jantine van der Vlist (Pool A) and Michelle Stiekema/Ilke Meertens (Pool E), the FIVB World Tour resumes with five-straight events in Europe with Grand Slam stops in Russia, Germany, Norway and Switzerland and The Netherlands.

The Netherlands event (July 15-20) brings back memories for Wesselink as she placed fourth in the 2013 stop in The Hague with van der Vlist. “That was my best result ever in my years on the FIVB World Tour and it was such an awesome feeling to achieve this result with so many of our Dutch family, friends and fans around cheering for us,” said Wesselink.  “I will never forget this tournament and how good it felt to win so many games in our home tournament.  Hopefully, Laura and I can make this year’s Grand Slam in Holland another success.”

Prior to the European Championships, Bloem and Wesselink took time to answer other questions.

Question: What is your pre-season training regime like?  Where, when and with which teams do you train?  Do you have a coach?

Wesselink: “We prepared this season mainly in our nice indoor Beach Hall in Aalsmeer, close to Amsterdam. Together with our coach Richard de Kogel (former pro-player and husband of Dutch Olympian Rebbeka Kadijk), we had good preparation and since we are a new team we had lots of things to work on together in winter time. Also we did a lot of physical preparation with our coach Rik Priester who is a former World Champion in powerlifting. In Holland, we practiced mostly with the two of us and our coach, to work on our teamwork and our basics and later we did more game-like practice with some great guys who play on the national tour in Holland. In March and April we did a training camp in Tenerife, which was perfect for us as we practiced and played a lot of matches against other European teams.”

Question: What are your individual strengths and what do you need to improve?

Bloem: “My goal is to learn to read the game better.  Try to switch faster in tactics when the opponent changes strategy.  Also be more conscious about moments when you can’t afford to make a mistake or when you have to turn up your game to make the difference.”

Wesselink: “For me, it is important to develop a consistent game.  I’ve been playing for some years already so the experience is there, but now I need to use that to become a consistent player every game and tournament.”

Question: What are your team's strengths and what areas of your team's game needs improvement?

Wesselink:  “One of our strengths is our physical possibilities, we are both very fit and explosive athletes, and although we are not the biggest players we have physical strengths that we can use to our advantage.  Also we believe that the energy and chemistry we have together is very positive.  Improvements need to happen to grow as a team and play more consistently. We only started working together since the beginning of 2014 so we need to invest in ourselves and each other to grow and become a more stable and stronger team.”

Question: What was the process of forming your team? What are your thoughts on playing with your partner?

Bloem: “I’m very happy to play with Marloes.  She is an experienced player but also makes me feel equal in this.  She is a very positive person, on the court and outside the court.  This makes it easy to learn and talk about mistakes to improve our next games. We have a lot of fun together and I think this is important when you play together during the long seasons.”

Wesselink: “After last season, a lot of changes happened with the Dutch teams, actually all the women’s teams were changed during or after last season.  We had to make new plans so we sat down together after the summer and it was very soon clear that Laura and I were both enthusiastic and eager to make a plan together and start playing as a team.  Playing with Laura is great, she is full of energy and eager to learn and play as much as possible.  She is a very flexible person to work with and this is nice since we spent so much time together.  Also she is very funny which makes travelling together always a good time!”

Question: When, where, why and how did you become a beach volleyball player?

Bloem: “I played from the age of nine to 18 at the indoor club of my hometown. I always liked beach volleyball and thought I would love to do it because I was an all-round player indoor. We didn’t have much of a chance to play beach volleyball at a high level in our hometown, so I waited until I started university. At 19, I started playing beach volleyball, first recreationally because I was too shy to ask to practice with national players. After one winter, our trainer Richard planned to let me play with Rebekka Kadijk. We started with a training week in Turkey and after we decided to play the whole national tour that season. We had a great year and I learned a lot from Rebekka, that’s how I rolled into the international beach volleyball circuit.”

Wesselink: “I started playing in 2004 in the national junior programme and never left the beach since. After two years of combining indoor with beach volleyball, I chose to go full-time to the sand, and it was the best decision ever. From 2005-2008, I partnered with Marleen van Iersel and we played all the youth and junior championships and made our way into the World Tour. Those were very important years for our development and also much fun to play and to travel so much as very young girls. In the years after, I played with different players and now with Laura. I feel challenged to make this team work and achieve good results.”

Question: When not practicing and playing, what do you do with your time?

Bloem: “When I’m not training, I am busy with my medical studies. It takes a lot of time, but I’m very interested in medicine and like to study. I also like learning new things, like playing the guitar, learning new languages and driving a motorcycle. Not always with a lot of success. I still don’t understand Spanish and I crashed my motor bike.”

Wesselink: “I like to spend time with my family, friends and boyfriend since we don’t get much time to do that during the season. I like to ride my bike through the city (yes, a very Dutch hobby) and discover nice places to eat or drink a coffee.  Also I’m very addicted to watching TV-shows, so I spent much time doing that (too much probably).”

Question: What has been your greatest experience and/or accomplishment in beach volleyball?

Bloem: “My greatest experience in beach volleyball was my first year (2010) playing with Rebekka (Kadijk, a three-time beach volleyball Olympian) when we won some national tournaments. That first year, I was also surprised that I could participate in a FIVB World Tour event in The Hague with Danielle Remmers because Sophie van Gestel was injured.  We played very well and placed 17th. Last year, I played my first FIVB World Championships, which was also a great experience (placed 17th with Kadijk). This year, I had my first top 10 result in Anapa and I’m playing my first European Championships”

Question: Have you had any disappointments?

Bloem: “I was very disappointed when I sprained my ankle in the last tournament of last season. It was the national championship and we were playing very well.I played until the end with tape around my ankle, but it hurt a lot and I couldn’t play my best.  We finished fifth.”

Wesselink: “During the years there have been ups and downs in the results, but every time you make another good result or play a great game you forget about the one you weren’t happy about and it makes it all worthwhile every time.”

Question: How do you rank on your domestic tour? Have you ever earned a podium berth in your country's national championship for beach volleyball?

Bloem: “Until now, I haven’t won a medal in the national championships although I have won some gold, silver and bronze medals during the domestic tour.  The goal for this year is definitely to get a medal at the national championships.”

Wesselink: “We haven’t played any domestic events yet this year, but we will for sure during the next months.  In August, we have our national championships in Scheveningen (same stadium as the Grand Slam) where it’s always a big battle between all the Dutch teams.  I was national champion once in 2007, and after that got some bronze and silver medals at the Dutch Championships.”

Question: Is there a history of playing beach volleyball and/or volleyball in the family?

Wesselink - “We both come from real volleyball families; the funny thing is that we ran into each other in the past at the beach, but we actually already knew each other from our youth, we come from the same little city in the east of Holland, it’s called Doetinchem. We started playing at the same indoor club, but we were never on a team together because of the age difference (Marloes is 27 and Laura is 24). So it is a coincidence that we found each other as teammates now so many years later.  Our city Doetinchem is also very excited and proud to have two girls from their town playing together on the FIVB World Tour. We also found some very loyal sponsors there that support our ambitions, which we are very grateful for.”

Question: If you are not playing beach volleyball, what do you do with your spare time? Do have a professional career or occupation?

Bloem - “I have two more years to go to finish my medical studies.  I don’t know yet what kind of doctor I want to be, but I still have a lot of time to figure this out.”

Wesselink - “I have almost completed my bachelor’s degree in Sports Marketing.  I will get my diploma in July, so I am very much looking forward to that moment.  I hope I can use this degree to find an interesting job after I quit playing beach volleyball professionally, but first I have some more years on the beach!”



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