The Dutch pair share a positive outlook on their Olympic chances
Christiaan Varenhorst and Steven van de Velde made the Final Four at the Sochi 4-star event this weekend, something they had not achieved since they took bronze in Itapema at their third FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event as a pair. Can they peak again right when the race for Olympic berths is hot, and can that take them to Tokyo?
Before Sochi, the team from the Netherlands were below the cut-off line in the provisional Olympic ranking, but not impossibly far behind.
Immediately after defeating another Olympic candidate pair, USA’s Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, in a Sochi quarterfinal, the tall Dutchmen spoke to Volleyball World on the topic.
“I think we have a good programme, making nice steps every week and every practice. This is a reward for the hard work we keep putting in at practice,” 31-year-old Rio Olympian Christiaan Varenhorst said. “Everything is, of course, still possible. We know we are quite a few points down and we know that if we want to make it through the ranking we need two good results. So this is a nice step in that direction, but for us it’s mainly about getting the level in, because there are also the Continental Cup finals in the Netherlands. So basically, we have two shots and it doesn’t matter which way, either way we’ll try and make it."
“Two years ago we had a peak. After that, we worked hard and our level has gone steadily up. Now we are at a stage when we are competing and we should, I think, make some semifinals,” 26-year-old Steven van de Velde added. “And we don’t want to think too far ahead. Now we are here and we want to perform here. Then we’ll see what happens next week in Ostrava and what happens at the Continental Cup… And then, we can comment on what happens next.”
To achieve their goals, Varenhorst and Van de Velde rely on what they think is their strongest weapon, their resilience as a team.
“We keep on fighting, whether we like each other or not, whether the game is good or not… Sometimes we shout and we yell at each other, but it’s to get the other one sharp again and get us on top of the game,” Christiaan said. “I think it showed in our previous game (2-1 comeback against Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl in the eighthfinals). We were down in both the second and the third sets, but we kept fighting, we kept pushing and that’s what makes us strong as a team I think.”
“We are a resilient team and it also showed at the last tournament in Cancun,” Steven confirmed. “But as you can see, we played a really solid game right now. We didn’t mess about and it was a good performance.”
Other than that really tight three-setter against the Poles in the eighthfinals, the Dutch pair did not lose a single set on the way to the Sochi semis. Still, they called it an “ups-and-downs” performance, although it was clearly much more on the up side.
Their next step in Sochi is Sunday’s semifinal against Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan, a team that is having a fantastic season on the World Tour so far. The two pairs met in the Cancun 3 eighthfinals, where the Qatari duo won in straight sets on the way to winning gold at the tournament.
“They are one up on us, so it’s time for us to hit back, right?” Van de Velde said.