Julius Thole is celebrating his 22nd birthday on Friday in Itapema as the towering German prepares for the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in his hometown.
Itapema, Brazil, May 17, 2019 - Six weeks prior to playing in the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in his native Hamburg, German Julius Thole is celebrating his 22nd birthday here Friday at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event in Itapema with Clemens Wickler.
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Thole, who started playing volleyball due to his father (Bernhard), and Wickler broke onto the international beach volleyball scene during the 2017-2018 season that propelled them to earn a spot in the 2019 FIVB World Championships via the FIVB World Tour pathway.
On Friday, Thole and Wickler will be playing for a spot in the Itapema Open’s men’s elimination bracket as the sixth-seeded Germans meet 22nd-seeded Grant O'Gorman/Ben Saxton in a Pool F consolation match in the second FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams.
O’Gorman and Saxton posted a 2-1 (21-18, 19-21, 16-14) pool play win last July in Portugal when the Canadians posted a fifth win for one of their best FIVB World Tour finishes together. Thole and Wickler rebounded from defeat to place on the Espinho podium with a bronze medal for the Germans' best World Tour placement together.
During their run at the Espinho Open, Thole and Wickler posted wins over FIVB veterans Alison Cerutti/Andre Loyola and Evandro Goncalves/Vitor Felipe of Brazil, Norwegians Anders Mol/Christian Sorum and Americans Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena.
Thole and Wickler ended the 2017-2018 campaign on a high note with a fourth-place finish at FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg where the Germans defeated Rio 2016 Olympic silver medal winners Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai of Italy.
When asked about a memorable beach volleyball match, the 206 cm (6'9") Thole said it was in: "The quarterfinal at the FIVB World Tour Finals against Martins Plavins/Edgars Tocs from Latvia. It was an incredible and emotional match. Winning this match with Clemens was our biggest success as a team so far. It was in a night match in front of 8,000 fans at our home stadium in my home city Hamburg. The atmosphere was unique."
Julius Thole (left) and Clemens Wickler after a quarterfinal win at the 2018 FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg
Thole said the person responsible for getting him involved in volleyball was: "My dad. He is a former indoor volleyball player and took my brother and me to his games. But he encouraged us to try a lot of different sports and to do what we like. I played soccer and tennis before."
Bernhard Thole (left) played volleyball while his sons watched the action
As for beach volleyball, Thole said he really enjoys the competition. "I love trying to find a way to beat the opponents. You have full responsibility: there is no coach and you can’t be replaced."
Family vacations helped launch Thole's beach volleyball. "I started playing beach volleyball during our family vacations together with my dad and my brother," said Thole. "A volleyball coach from Hamburg saw me playing and invited me to meet a coach who practiced indoor volleyball with talented kids in Hamburg when I was 10. I took the final decision to focus on beach volleyball when I was 17.
Thole said: "Watching Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann win the final of the London 2012 Olympic Games against Alison/Emanuel Rego was also a memorable moment. The final took place at the same time when I played at my first Youth Beach Volleyball German Championships at the age of 15."
While excited to be playing in Hamburg next month at the 2019 FIVB World Championships, Thole said his "Biggest goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo."
Germans Julius Thole, Clemens Wickler, Laura Ludwig and Maggie Kozuch pose with the FIVB World Championship trophy
Thole hopes to continue being connected with the sport when he stops playing. But first, it is finishing his law studies with the thoughts of starting a family in the future.
"I will finish my law studies and start a family," said Thole, who started playing on the FIVB World Tour in 2017 and is currently tied for ninth in the world rankings with Wickler. "For sure, I will keep somehow connected with the sport when I finish playing, but that could be in the 2030s."