Austria's beach volleyball star Clemens Doppler is currently fighting for his 4th (!!!) Olympic participation. The native Upper Austrian wants to leave nothing to chance together with long-term partner and defense genius Alex Horst.
Corona has changed a lot in the last year. In your opinion, was it good or bad for you that the Olympic Games were postponed?
Clemens Doppler: The postponement was not good for us. First of all, we are no longer the youngest players and so the ravages of time are of course gnawing a bit. We used the time very well, especially to work even better in the athletic and mental areas, but a year earlier would certainly have been better for us. Second, Corona has eliminated many tournaments that we urgently needed to qualify for the Olympics directly via the world rankings. These tournaments are now gone and will not come back, so of course the chances have not increased. The only really good thing about the postponement was that I had been home a lot for years and had a lot more time for my family. That's worth a lot.
How do Doppler / Horst plan to make it to Tokyo despite the difficult circumstances?
Clemens Doppler: There is still a minimal chance above the world rankings. But we would have to make it into the top 5 at most of the tournaments that are now still part of the qualification, and on top of that, our direct competitors should fail. That is not realistic. We see greater opportunities in the Continental Cup, a format similar to the Davis Cup in tennis. 2 teams per nation compete against 3 other nations and the winning nation moves up to the next round. If we can prevail against Ermacora / Pristauz and Seidl / Waller within Austria, we would also have a home advantage. Because the next and penultimate round of the Continental Cup will take place in Baden near Vienna. It's often easier with the domestic fans behind you, as we already noticed at the 2017 World Cup in Vienna. We owe our World Cup silver medal to a certain extent to our fans.
How has Corona changed your training?
Clemens Doppler: Many teams have used the Corona interruption to eradicate athletic deficits. We did that too, of course, but we focused more on injury prophylaxis. Our ball training, on the other hand, has hardly changed in terms of scope and content. However, we have had far fewer outdoor training sessions. That is also the reason why I am comparatively pale for February. Unfortunately, the travel restrictions caused by Corona had a strong impact and we simply could not train to the usual extent in sunny countries
"You prepare for a major event like the Olympic Games for 4 years, everything else in life is subordinate to this goal and then suddenly everything is over"
How did you keep the focus despite the cancellation of many tournaments?
Clemens Doppler: The whole thing reminded me a bit of 2004. You prepare for a major event like the Olympic Games for 4 years, subordinate everything else in life to this goal and then suddenly it's all over. In 2004 we were already fully qualified and 1 month before the Olympics, I suffered a cruciate ligament rupture. All at once the dream of the Olympics was over. This time Corona thwarted all of us, so of course it's not quite the same. As in 2004, it was also important this time to make the best of the situation, not to quarrel and to look ahead. The magic word is attention control. Far too often you waste time focusing on things that you cannot influence, instead of investing energy where you can change something for the better. I think we succeeded very well as a team. Our vast experience naturally plays a key role here.
Has your team structure not been strained by the crisis?
Clemens Doppler: No, the team structure never wobbled. We were and are all in the same situation. However, the burden has increased on a financial level. There has been a great deal of uncertainty for a long time. What will the sponsors and partners do? Can we maintain our professional environment? In retrospect, we can only say that we were very lucky. Our sponsors have all kept us going. I'm sure not everyone in our sport has felt that way.
"You have to think anyway, so why not positively"
What would qualifying for the Olympic Games 2021 mean for you under these difficult conditions?
Clemens Doppler: Qualifying for the Olympic Games is always something special. It is the highest that can be achieved. If we can do it this year, it would be a little more special because we are sure to face the most difficult conditions of our careers. Until the qualification deadline, the simple thought is that we will make it this year as well. You have to think anyway, so why not positively.
Will Doppler / Horst still aim for the Olympics in 2024?
Clemens Doppler: The Olympic Games 2024 will take place in Paris - right in front of the Eiffel Tower, an incredibly casual location. Of course I would like to see that happen. But now the focus is on 2021, we haven't talked about it within the team either and that would be completely wrong. But everything is possible! The American Jake Gibb, for example, is 44 and will qualify for the Olympics again this year. But as I said, now it's all about what should happen this year and then we'll sit down at a table and see what goals we still want to achieve together.
Why switch to J. Athletics?
Clemens Doppler: We just don't want to leave anything to chance anymore. J. Athletics develops sunglasses based on the know-how of top athletes and only uses high-quality components. There is no better sports sunglasses. We noticed that straight away from the first second. We have already tested the glasses at our training camp in Tenerife and were thrilled. The style of the glasses is also extremely trendy and Alex and I were approached by many people. I am also very pleased that an old friendship is reviving with the partnership. I was able to work with Mike Kofler, the inventor of J. Athletics, a few years ago and even then I could feel his passion for the perfect sunglasses. Last but not least, we can also design our own model, which allows us to get even more out of it and of course it also makes us a little proud.
Clemens, thank you very much for the great conversation and the exciting insights into your sporting life. We wish you and Alex all the best for the Olympic qualification.