Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum Back on Top the Podium
Photo credit: FIVB
Last October, sitting on a pair of plastic chairs atop an artificial turf field in Las Vegas, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum smiled the same smiles that dozens upon dozens of fans had requested pictures of. They gladly took every one, signing autographs, turning Vegas into, improbably, a makeshift home tournament for those Norwegians. They did one interview after the next until they were asked whether, at that point in their wildly, unprecedentedly successful run, they expected to make a Sunday, their fifth in a row.
It had been three months since the beach volleyball world had held a major tournament that didn’t feature Mol and Sorum on its final day, and yet, “absolutely not,” Mol said, instinctively, almost defensively, of whether or not they expected to make the medal rounds. “Of course, we want to do good in every tournament but it’s not like we expect to play on Sunday every time. It’s a lot of hard work. This time, we have our flights on Sunday, so we were not expecting this.”
“You never know,” Sorum added. “There’s a lot of good teams so you can have a good day, you can have a bad day, and there’s many teams you can lose to.”
At the time, this could have seemed a bit of false modesty. Too humble. The new kids on the block not wanting to disrupt the social order of the beach volleyball world. They had, after all, won the three major championships leading up to Vegas – Vienna, Gstaad, Hamburg – and were coming off another final at p1440 San Jose. They’d already disrupted enough.
They’re wiser than their years, Mol and Sorum. Months later, at the 2019 season-opener in The Hague, they proved prophetic. Indeed there are many good teams in the world. And it doesn’t necessarily take a bad day for any of those teams to beat anyone, even Norway. For at The Hague in January, there was Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov, beating Mol and Sorum 21-12, 21-13. It marked the worst loss in their partnership.
Three months later, in Xiamen, China, after Mol nursed an injury that kept him out for six weeks, it was Spain who took them down before Sunday’s semifinals and medal matches.
Maybe expecting a Sunday was a bit lofty, after all.
Now is a good time to note that two fifth-place finishes is not a cause for concern for any team, whether it be Norway or Russia or America or Poland or Germany, in the world. For many, two such finishes in back-to-back tournaments is a career highlight. For those who had followed Norway in 2018, who had witnessed their rise from qualifier team to world champs, it was a bit of a surprise.
“This off-season,” Jake Gibb said last August, “there’s going to be a lot of Norwegian film going around.”
Maybe the world had adjusted, then. Narrowed the gap.
Itapema, Brazil, followed Xiamen. Only one team, Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak, managed to claim a set off Mol and Sorum.
One week later, in Jinjiang, they did it again. They did it despite, as Sorum joked on Instagram, needing to beat “the whole AVP” in Ryan Doherty and John Hyden, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, followed by the best server in the world, Evandro Goncalves, on one of his best serving days in the final.
“We don’t really expect to play well,” Mol said. And there they went again, those humble Norwegians, constantly praising the tour they’ve come to sit atop of once more. “We managed to rally and get this gold medal. It feels amazing.”
It feels remarkably familiar. Like something, whether they admit it or not, we should expect to see most every Sunday.
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