The biggest beach volleyball tournament in the history of the sport is expected to wow the crowds of Hamburg when the 12th edition of the World Championships rocks up in Hamburg, Germany, this July.
Germany might not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of beach volleyball, but the truth is that Hamburg has enjoyed a love affair with the sport which has been drawing crowds for over 20 years.
So what better way to celebrate Hamburg’s association with the beach with this year’s world championships which will ensure two countries a place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
If we turn the clocks back, though, the first World Championships were held in Los Angeles in 1997. Brazil took gold in both the men’s and women’s tournaments with Guilherme/Para clinching the first ever men’s title while Silva/Pires did the business for the women.
It was the same two years later in Marseille, France, as Brazil dominated once more by taking both gold medals.
In 2001 in Klagenfurt, Argentinians Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde broke the Brazilian dominance but Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede secured back-to-back titles in the women’s division.
But in 2003 in Rio, things began to get interesting. Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor started their dominance on the beach by storming to the first of what would be an incredible three successive world titles.
Emanuel/Ricardo (2003) and Marcio/Fabio (2005) restored Brazil’s grip on the men’s division before Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser secured the United States’ first men’s American gold in Gstaad in 2007
In 2009, the World Champs headed to Stavanger, Norway, where Germans Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann won gold – three years before they would win the Olympic title in London in 2012. It was four in a row for the American women…but Kerri and Misty were overthrown by Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.
Brazil bounced back to form two years later in Rome, as Alison/Emanuel and Juliana/Larissa claimed top spot but in Stare Jablonki, Poland, in 2013 two new countries emerged as beach volleyball powerhouses as Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, of the Netherlands, and Xue Chen and Zhang Xi, of China, claimed the titles.
However, you can never write off Brazil, and two years ago in The Hague, Alison/Bruno and Agatha/Barbara made it another World Championships double for the South American nation – the fourth time in World Championships history the Brazilians have done the double.
Two years ago in Vienna, history was made as another Brazilian men’s team topped the podium. At 22, Andre Loyola became the youngest World Champion as he and big-serving partner Evandro Gonçalves took the title. The South Americans ended the fairytale story of home favorites Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst who recorded the best result of their long careers by taking silver.
Reigning Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst captured the one title missing from their trophy cabinet to capture the women’s crown. Their achievement was even more remarkable given an injury-hit season has restricted them to three tournaments together in the lead-up to the championships.
So what does the future hold in Hamburg? Can either Evandro and Andre become one of the first men to defend their title, albeit with new partners? Can Laura Ludwig capture back-to-back championships with a new partner and keep the trophy in Germany?
Competition promises to the hardest in the history of the championships, so stay tuned and find out between Juni 28 and August 7.