27.06.2019 - Hamburg
Ten years ago, the World Championships came to Norway. In Stavanger that year of 2009, two small boys, who did not know each other at the time, were inside the same Center Court, busy being inspired by the beach volleyball greats.
Christian Sørum and his brother Aleksander went down to the sand, taking it in turns to pretend to be Brazilian legends Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego. Anders Mol, meanwhile, was happy with his accreditation, going behind-the-scenes to mix with his heroes.
Fast forward to today and Christian and Anders head into their first ever World Championships as the favorites and undisputed world number ones.
It’s a journey the pair can barely believe themselves. And it all started during that week in Stavanger.
“It was amazing for me – to see how professional the tournament was and how many people were there,” says Christian, now 23, then just 13. “After the games were finished my brother and I would head down onto the main court and play as Ricardo or Emanuel, imagining ourselves as superstars. Since then I’ve played and beaten Ricardo, it is weird how things change – amazing, actually.”
Anders was also there, strutting around the VIP sections as his dad, Kåre, was busy coaching the Norwegian teams competing.
“I was so proud to have my accreditation and it was so much fun, mingling with the big stars, asking for their jerseys,” remembers Anders, now 21, then just an 11-year-old with a passion for volleyball. “I was just being that little kid, being inspired. It was already important for me to be there.”
In those 10 years since those influential first experiences of beach volleyball, a lot has changed for Christian and Anders. Last season saw them explode onto the scene with gold medal after gold medal. First the Gstaad Major, then the European Championships. Then Vienna Major gold. Then, here in Hamburg, at the World Tour Finals.
It didn’t stop as the 2019 season rolled around either: gold in Las Vegas, gold in Itapema, gold in Jinjiang, gold in Ostrava. Eventually the spell was broken. Only silver in Warsaw. Only…
That kind of form means they head into their World Championship debut, which kicks off on the Red Bull Beach Arena on Friday night, as the most feared pairing right now.
Two years ago, while the World Championships in Vienna were sending goosebumps across the globe, Anders and Christian were actually playing against each other at a two-star tournament in Portugal. Anders and his cousin Mathias Bernsten beat Christian and Svein Solhaug in the bronze medal match.
“It’s hard to believe all of this has happened in the last two years, I would have never imagined to get this far and to do so well,” says Anders. “We talk about it a lot. How? How can we possibly get on top of the World Tour in just one season? That shouldn’t be possible. We are fortune and proud of our team and we want to keep winning, stay away from injuries and enjoy and maintain our position. We want to do our best and win tournaments of course. That’s what we’re here for. This is just the beginning but a lot of hard work has gone into making this dream come true.”
And you better believe that Anders and Christian, who will be aiming to be the youngest ever team to win a World Championship title, have thought about making history come the final on July 7.
“It does cross my mind – we could be world champions,” says Anders with a face of disbelief. “It can get into your mind and mess with it a little. So you have to kind of step back and not think about those kinds of thoughts. We know we can do it, we’ve shown that we are playing to that level, we’re the world number ones. But if you think about it too much you put pressure on yourself and that’s when you start to underperform.”
Should the Vikings go on and win in Hamburg, Anders is hoping the triumph will help elevate beach volleyball’s profile back home in Norway.
“I’m sure it would make a huge impact – what matter to the people of Norway are titles. World titles,” says Anders. “Winning a four or a five-star event doesn’t have the same effect. Everyone in Norway knows what a world champion is. When we won the Euros it was a big deal.
“It’s been a long time since a European team won gold [Brouwer/Meeuwsen six years ago] so it’s about time to get Europe back on top – and we’re ready for that mission.”
Should that become a reality, and another gold hangs around their necks, then who knows, 10 years after being inspired themselves, they are the ones doing the inspiring.
And perhaps there are a couple of young children in the crowd who will eventually step down on the sand once the play is over and begin to argue who is Mol and who is Sørum.