Thole retires from professional beach volleyball

An Olympian and silver medallist at the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship announced the end of his playing career

Julius Thole announced the end of his playing career as a professional beach volleyballer on Monday. The 24-year-old German blocker explained that he will now concentrate on his law studies. Thole’s partner, Clemens Wickler, will join forces with Nils Ehlers.

“The decision was not an easy one for me and I've been thinking about it over the past few weeks. The main reason is that in the next three years I will no longer be able to practise the sport with full devotion. This has always been the most important requirement for the success of the team,” 2.06m-tall Thole said. “Now I want to intensify my law studies. I was already studying during my career, which I certainly did well in the circumstances, but I have now reached a phase, shortly before the state examination, in which my academic studies will no longer be compatible with my commitment to the sport.”

In his very first season in international beach volleyball, in 2014, Julius Thole claimed the continental title at the CEV U18 European Championship. In 2017, he earned bronze at the CEV Austrian Masters in Baden, his first international podium at the senior level. But his career really picked up after he began playing with Clemens Wickler in 2018. Their journey together peaked at the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Hamburg, when they took silver. Later that season, Thole and Wickler followed up with a silver at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in Rome. They established themselves as one of the top teams in the FIVB World Rankings, garnishing their path with another silver and two bronze finishes on the World Tour before the coronavirus pandemic struck. This year, the German pair played at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and reached the quarterfinals.

“I don't have to explain how difficult it was for me to make the decision. Beach volleyball was my life, I met a lot of great people and I am very grateful for the experiences and the encounters. I could not have dreamed of achievements like the fifth place at the Olympics and the World Championship silver,” Thole added.

“Certainly the news was a shock at first, but it was always clear that we would only do it as long as we were involved at 100%.” 26-year-old Wickler said, quoted by volleyball-verband.de. “In competitive sports you have to devote yourself completely, so it is a fair decision towards the coaching staff and me. If Julius only brings in 80% and struggles through, it won't do anyone any good. I can understand it completely."

The German national federation simultaneously announced that Clemens Wickler will now team up with 27-year-old 2.10m-tall Nils Ehlers, who has two World Tour silver medals on his record so far.

“We are both very good individual players and we will try to find each other,” Clemens added. “I am very optimistic that it will work and that we will have good years together. Our goal is, of course, to play and do our best at Paris 2024.”