Looking back: Ludwig and Walkenhorst claim gold at 2017 World Tour Finals
Kira Walkenhorst and Laura Ludwig celebrate winning the 2017 Finals in Hamburg
In 2016, the German pair upset Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas to win Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro. In 2017, they overcame a difficult start to the year – Ludwig’s season was delayed following a shoulder operation – to win the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna. And that was followed by a success at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone, a particularly emotional event for the Germans who were playing on home turf.
2017 Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone
“There are no words. Playing here in Hamburg was unbelievable. We were basically carried along by our fans,” said an overjoyed Ludwig after the final, over the celebrations of thousands of enthusiastic supporters.
The time it took for Ludwig to recover from her shoulder operation meant that the local favourites only made it into the showdown of the top players on the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour courtesy of a wild card. At the tournament, however, they soon demonstrated why they are regarded as the best beach team on the planet. After marching through the knockout round in dominant fashion, Ludwig and Walkenhorst were really only tested for the first time in the final. As well as their brilliant beach volleyball skills, the pair also showed remarkable fighting spirit to overcome fourth seeds Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa of Brazil 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 15-10).
Ludwig and Agatha battle at the net during the gold medal match at the World Tour Finals in 2017
Even the defeated finalists were quick to recognise the Germans’ dominance.
Agatha Bednarczuk said: “It’s a good thing to finish second in a tournament which features only the best teams in the world. It was a wonderful game. They played better than us and they deserved the gold medal. We couldn’t stop Kira.”
At the end of the season, Walkenhorst’s experienced partner Laura Ludwig was deservedly named “Most Outstanding Player” of the beach season, for her remarkable defensive game. With the victory in the Finals, Ludwig and Walkenhorst earned $100,000. The Germans had also topped the podium in October 2016 at the World Tour Finals in Toronto, Canada. In the inaugural World Tour Final in 2015 on Fort Lauderdale in the United States, however, Ludwig and Walkenhorst lost the gold medal match to Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
Third place in Hamburg in 2017 went to second seeds Talita and Larissa, who overcame third seeds Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada 2-0 (21-17, 21-19).
In the men’s competition, world champions Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola of Brazil lost the final 2-0 (21-15, 21-13) to Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the USA. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!” celebrated the experienced Dalhausser on Instagram after their outstanding victory.
Both 37 years old, Americans Dalhausser and Lucena were by far the most experienced players competing in the final four in Hamburg. But their age didn’t stop them from taking home the gold medals as they defeated 27-year-old Evandro Goncalves and 23-year-old Andre Loyola. Combining for 203 FIVB starts, the veteran Americans made the most of their experience during the tournament, especially in their quarterfinal game against Canada’s Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk where they were forced to call on their knowledge of the game to avoid defeat.
“Beach volleyball is a sport where experience definitely helps,” Dalhausser commented.
“That’s why guys can play into their late 30s or early 40s, like Ricardo or Emanuel. We had slow starts against Poland and Brazil, and the fact that we won these matches shows that experience can keep you in the game. It definitely doesn’t hurt.”
Dalhausser and Lucena had placed second and fifth in the previous two Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals in the United States and Canada, respectively. However, Dalhausser’s dream of adding the title at the big season finale to the Olympic gold medal he won in 2008 came true in Hamburg.
“It’s one of the biggest things in my career. It’s really satisfying. This is by far the deepest field I’ve ever seen out here in the World Tour. Hamburg has been good to us,” said Dalhausser. In recognition of his efforts, Dalhausser was crowned the Most Outstanding Player on the 2017 FIVB Beach World Tour. Bronze went to Italians Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo.
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