It had been over a year since Laura Ludwig last played a beach volleyball match, but when she hit the sand on Thursday, the German star looked ready for action.
Ludwig’s fire still burning as she returns in Cape Town
With new partner Louisa Lippmann by her side, the German star is back after 15 months away from the courts
Published 05:02, 03 Nov 2022
She had a new partner by her side in former volleyball star Louisa Lippmann, but the fighting spirit, the emotional explosions, the aggressive playing style and the spectacular plays were all very much still part of the 36-year-old Olympic champion’s game.
A four-time Olympian, Ludwig had last played during the Tokyo Olympics, 15 months ago, when partner Margareta Kozuch and her finished fifth. The legendary defender announced she was expecting her second child later that year and gave birth to Lenny in May.
In her return to official competition at the Cape Town Elite16, Ludwig had good moments alongside Lippmann against Americans Megan Kraft and Emily Stockman, but the Germans couldn’t avoid a 2-0 (19-21, 15-21) defeat in their first Pool D match at the Grand Parade.
“It was great to realise that the feeling is still there, I like it,” Ludwig commented. “I love competing and I was definitely nervous, but the people here in Cape Town have been really nice. They were hyping everyone up and it felt great to be on the court again.”
If it was easy to see Ludwig remains the same as ever on court, but she says she has changed with Lenny’s birth. The challenges of raising two kids and resuming her beach volleyball career have made the German star approach her daily routine a little differently.
“I would say that my mindset remains the same – I still expect a lot from myself,” she added. “Maybe I am a little bit more patient now, but I still want to be at 100% with everything I do and that sometimes takes a toll on my body. I feel a little bit more relaxed now, I don’t get crazy if I am one minute late to practise anymore, and the team has been great in understanding it and helping me with handling my routine. Louisa is very sweet with my kids, she’s even put them to sleep recently.”
Ludwig and Lippman’s journey as partners didn’t start with a victory, but they still have time to change their fate in Cape Town. Despite the early upset, the two still have two more pool play matches on Friday to try to finish among the top two teams in Pool D and advance to the quarterfinals.
The Germans will face Japan’s Suzuka Hashimoto and Reika Murakami at 10.00 local time (8.00 GMT) and Slovenians Tjasa Kotnik and Tajda Lovsin later at 20.00 local time (18.00 GMT).
“It’s still all very new, but it was also exciting,” Lippmann, who had played in a Beach Pro Tour event in the Maldives with Anna-Lena Grune in October, commented. “I was very happy to be with Laura here and that we’re having the chance to get our first matches and our first tournament as partners in Cape Town and we want to make the most of it.”
At the conclusion of the first day of the main draw at the Grand Parade, reigning world champions Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos of Brazil are the only team to have earned a place in the quarterfinals. The South Americans swept (21-17, 21-18) French pair Lézana Placette and Alexia Richard and repeated the 2-0 (21-13, 21-11) victory against Spanish team María Carro and Angela Lobato to secure one of the two spots available from Pool A.
Pool B also completed two matches for each team on Thursday but had an entirely different scenario, with all four duos - Japan's Miki Ishii/Sayaka Mizoe, the Czech Republic's Marketa Sluková/Helena Havelková, Brazil's Talita Antunes/Thamela Coradello and USA's Corinne Quiggle/Sarah Schermerhorn - tied with one win and one loss.
The other two pools had one match for each team only and while Americans Sarah Sponcil/Terese Cannon and Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss sit at the top of Pool C, their compatriots Kraft and Stockman share Pool D's top spot with Lovsin and Kotnik.
Pool play will be completed on Friday, setting the stage for the elimination rounds, which will feature both the quarterfinals and the semifinals on Saturday. The medal matches for both genders will be played on Sunday in Cape Town.