FIVB World Championships: Germany’s Golden Boys Continue Phenomenal Run To Finals Against Russia
Run it back, Mr. DeeJay. Play that track again. The world didn’t get enough, nor may it ever get enough, of Germany vs. Norway.
Last season was but a glimpse, when Clemens Wickler and Julius Thole met Anders Mol and Christian Sorum at the World Tour Finals in Hamburg, the very same site of this weekend’s World Championships.
They were underdogs then, those German kids. Just 21 and 23 years old, coming out of qualifiers all year long, sometimes not making it out at all. Yet there they were all the same, beating the best the world had to offer – Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Igor Velichko, Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs. Every match that went to three that tournament, they came out on top, a nod, perhaps, to the home court advantage of playing in front of 10,000 screaming, dancing Germans.
They went to three sets with Mol and Sorum, too, when the Norwegians were just beginning one of the most absurdly sustained peaks in the sport. It went to Mol and Sorum a year ago, as most everything did a year ago, but the statement was made: Thole and Wickler were no underdogs. They were bona fide world tour contenders.
They’d prove it again. Same site. Same opponent. Similar stakes, only with Olympic points on the line this time. Coming into Saturday afternoon, they, won every set, beating a list of medal contenders for Tokyo 2020: Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, Alison and Alvaro, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.
On the other side of Saturday’s semifinal was Mol and Sorum, the only other team in the tournament who also hadn’t dropped a set. Somebody had to be imperfect. It was Thole and Wickler who broke first, losing the first, 17-21. Then it was Mol and Sorum who showed their first signs of fallibility, dropping the second, 16-21.
To the delight of seemingly everyone in Germany, to three it went. Only this time, it was the Germans who outlasted Norway, the hottest team on tour and currently on a run that could put them in discussions of greatest two-year run ever.
In Sunday’s final, it will be Thole and Wickler, not Mol and Sorum, vying for the World Championship and the record of youngest team to win it. It will be Thole, not Sorum, seeking to break Andre Loyola’s record of youngest individual to hold the title of World Champ.
“We’ve beaten Brouwer/Meeuwsen, Alison/Alvaro, Lucena/Dalhausser and now Mol/Sørum – every time we had the crowd to thank for being with us,” Thole said. “When you have the support, it gives you strength. If you’re on the court in the warm-up, there’s no way you can feel weak.
“If you think to yourself ‘okay, I can play well here, we can make these points’ and having that possibility and help of the crowd makes me optimistic we can play another good game in the final.”
In the final they’ll see Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy who, like Mol and Sorum, have nary a flaw. But behind them will be 10,000 German fans, seeking a World Championship as one.
“One journalist told me already, ‘you have a medal already’, and it’s true, we have at least silver, but I can’t think about this right now,” Thole said. “This event is so big – it’s the biggest outside of the Olympics and it’s here in my home city.
“Now we are in the final we don’t want to end up like Nummerdor/Varenhorst or Doppler/Horst. We will do everything we can to change that.”
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