Luxembourg/Zurich, May 5, 2008. Right before the start of the Austrian Masters in St. Pölten, local favorite and top player Clemens Doppler speaks about his team's Olympic plans, the level of beach volleyball play in Europe and how the European Championship title increased the duo’s popularity.
Mr. Doppler, how did the victory of the 2007 European Championship in Valencia affect the popularity of the duo Doppler/Gartmayer in Austria?
We are a lot more established in the Austrian sports scene after Valencia than what we were before the European Championship, we are recognized by the public a lot more as well. There are more interview requests - our entire public relations work has increased quite a bit.
You won the 2003 European title with Nick Berger in Antalya and the 2007 title with Peter Gartmayer. Which title means more to you?
Both titles have the same great significance. I was only 22 in 2003. It was my first big international title making it an incredible experience. And on top of that the dramatic final against Germany's Dieckmann/Reckermann in the blistering heat. Unforgettable. The experience we had last year is also difficult to put into words. We played the tournament only one year after my second rupture of the cruciate ligament. Nobody really thought we had the stuff left to really make a mark. We proved them they were all wrong. The whole thing was a very emotional story for me personally.
Is a victory in St. Pölten an obligation for the duo Doppler/Gartmayer?
Obligation is not the right word in this situation. With the high level of play and the strong competition on the NESTEA European Championship Tour anyone can beat anyone - and so any team can also lose to any other team as well. Our goal is to reach the semi-finals in St. Pölten. Once we make it that far the tournament victory will be within our grasp.
The European elite is especially competitive in the men's competition. At least ten teams have the potential to win the European Championship. How do you assess this development?
What is happening right now is really great and the development is extremely fast. For example: I beat Julius Brink 21:7 and 21:12 in 2003. Three years later he was European Champion and now he is one of the best players in the world. The level of play has never been this high and the competition has never been this tough. You really have to give at least 100 per cent even in the qualification or you will find yourself eliminated before you know what hit you.
The world's elite is focusing its planning on the Olympics in Beijing. What about Doppler/Gartmayer?
Of course the Olympic year is something very special for us. But we are still trying to plan our season as we would do with any other. Beijing definitely has the priority this year, but we will not get caught up in the hype.
As Austrians you will definitely travel to Beijing. Other nations like Germany have a lot of national competition. Top teams will have to stay at home. Do you have a kind of privilege?
Definitely. Though there is one more world-class team in Austria, i.e. Gosch/Horst, but still two teams per nation can qualify so we will definitely be going to Beijing. That certainty takes quite a bit of weight off of our shoulders. The international competition is hard enough. Of course we are glad not to have the extra pressure at home as well. I cannot say I envy the situation the Germans have to cope with.
LAOLA1.tv - the Sport-TV on the Net – will provide a Video-Live-Stream service during the Austrian Masters, which serves as the second leg of the 2008 NESTEA European Championship Tour. Check www.laola1.tv
For more information on the NESTEA European Championship Tour visit Beach Volleyball - European Championship Tour