Margareta Kozuch celebrating a point at the Warsaw four-star
Warsaw, Poland, June 29, 2018 – A year and a half ago she shocked the volleyball world with the decision to switch from indoor to beach. A year and a half later, she refuses to evaluate the decision as right or wrong, but says she always follows her heart. Well, Margareta Kozuch’s heart has already led her to her first medal on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and she has no intention of stopping there.
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She was a big star on the German national volleyball team, an FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix bronze medallist and a two-time European Championship silver medallist, with many individual awards of the highest calibre also to her name. She had a great club player career as well and in 2016 she even won the CEV Champions League with her Italian club team Pomi Casalmaggiore. At that time even Maggie Kozuch did not expect such a sudden change in direction in her career.
“It was not really a planned decision. I always had it on my mind to play beach volleyball, but without a clear idea about when and how and certainly not at that moment, when we had won the Champions League. It was a really good year for me, but it was also a time when I was suffering from shoulder pain, so I decided to skip the season with the national team,” Kozuch explains. “Then the Chinese club I had almost finalized my contract with stopped existing. At that moment I visited the finals of the German beach volleyball championships, just for fun with friends, but then the people there started speculating that I was there because I wanted to play beach volleyball. Even rumours that Karla was looking for a new partner and that it would be me started going around, but it was nothing serious. But on the following day, Karla did indeed call me and this all of a sudden became a real option for me. I am a very intuitive person in life and I like challenges. Beach volleyball would also be better for my shoulder than indoor. I followed my heart and my instinct and decided that this was the right journey for me right at that moment of my life.”
Less than a week after Margareta Kozuch and her well-seasoned sand partner Karla Borger won their first medal on the World Tour – bronze at the Ostrava four-star event, at the premises of their next tournament, the Warsaw four-star, Maggie comments on her life-changing decision to switch disciplines.
“It was not right or wrong, in my opinion. It was just a decision,” she says. “I really like it. I feel that I have a lot of possibilities to grow, both as a player and as a person, which is super good, because I am going through a lot of intense situations that help me learn so many things and I am grateful for it. On the other hand, I also have a partner, Karla, who played at the Olympics and won a silver medal from the World Championship, while I was really inexperienced. This meant that I could start playing at the highest level with her right away.”
Since Karla and Margareta did not immediately join the German national federation beach volleyball programme, they did not get to play at many tournaments in 2017. Still they managed to get close to the final four at the Moscow three-star, finishing fifth – their best result in their first year. In 2018, the German pair intensified their World Tour appearances and after a couple more fifth-place finishes, at Fort Lauderdale and Itapema, last week at Ostrava they reached their first podium.
“We were working for it for a long time. Every day at practice, we are working for going higher and higher. It is very satisfying, especially after last year, when we didn’t have many chances to play at tournaments. This year we are super happy, because we have the chance to compete. Sport is about winning or losing, so even if we are losing, we take it as a learning experience, because we know that the potential is there. We were waiting for this moment – to stand on the podium, but for sure this is still not all our potential and we want to continue working and continue growing as a team. But it feels good to have a good result, to have something tangible in our bags...” Maggie says.
If the decision to switch from volleyball to beach volleyball was a big risk for Kozuch, for Borger it was an even bigger risk to team up with someone without any experience on the sand. But now she completely agrees that the potential is there.
“It’s incredible how she improved!” Karla points out. “For an indoor player, who never ever played beach volleyball, I think it is really crazy to change sport, because it is really hard – with the wind, with the sun, with the stress of being irreplaceable on the court. It is really, really tough for the mind and for the body, but she is doing really well. Out of all the players who come from indoor volleyball, she did it the fastest and the best. It is incredible how she is bringing her skills from indoor volleyball to the beach. A year and a half later, I am more than satisfied and happy with my decision, because she is doing a great job and the more experience she is getting, the better she is getting, which means there is still a lot of potential.”
Not only on the court, but also off the sand, Maggie and Karla look like they have been together forever. And they are always smiling, always joking, always having a good time...
“We love to be positive and happy. We love to smile. Both of us just love the competition. We feel the fire on the court. This is something that we really enjoy together. We also go together through the difficult moments. This is like family. We are always together and each of us knows the other one so well,” Kozuch says. “Before we teamed up we did not know each other. We had mutual friends and said hi to each other, but that’s it. Now we are not just friends, we are more like sisters, because even with my best friends or my boyfriend I am not so close all the time.”
Kozuch and Borger greet each other on the court in Warsaw
“I never closed my doors to go back to indoor volleyball, because you never know what will happen. For sure, it is something that I love to do,” Maggie says when asked about the future. “But I also love playing beach volleyball – it’s great! So I just live in the moment. For now, Karla and I take it step by step. We are living in the moment and we want to do the right things in the ‘right now’, and then… whatever comes, we are happy or we reflect on what we should do better. Of course, our big goal is to go to the Olympics, but there are so many steps before that and each of them requires 100 per cent commitment from us. And while making the next step, we just follow our hearts…”