CKU Paris CHI-NOR 007

Just moments after securing an uninterrupted dismantling of Chile’s Marco and Esteban Grimalt in the semifinals of the Paris Elite16, Christian Sorum spoke what might just be the two most terrifying words in beach volleyball: “We’re back.”

It’s been a strange summer for Sorum and his all-world partner, Anders Mol. There have been the highest of highs, namely a gold medal at the World Championships in June, the only title they hadn't previously owned in their moonshot rise to the top of the beach volleyball world. But then there has also been a strange string of lows, as injury and illness have forced the Norwegians to forfeit the final two matches of the Jurmala Elite16 in early June, then four matches in a row, stretching between the Gstaad and Hamburg Elite16s, leading up to this week’s event in Paris. Any remaining questions about the health of Mol and Sorum, however, have been effectively answered this week on the hallowed grounds of Roland Garros, as the two have won five straight matches with just a single set dropped.

“We’re officially back,” Sorum, the 26-year-old defender, said. “The bodies of both of us are back now and it feels really good to play good volleyball again. Not having any problems in the bodies, no sickness, just playing the sport we love in front of so many people was amazing.”

They gave the thousands of Parisians filling up Roland Garros something special on Saturday, opening with a 21-17, 21-15 win over Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl, who were arguably the hottest team in the sport, coming off back-to-back gold medals in Espinho and Hamburg. Then came the 34-minute, 21-15, 21-11 rout over the Chilean cousins, who really, despite what the score might suggest, didn’t play poorly at all.

That’s just the sort of result that can happen when Norway is, as Sorum said, “officially back.”

“We really pushed our best level today,” Mol, the 6-foot-7, 25-year-old blocker, said. “It’s always nice to feel like you’re succeeding in the things you want to do on the court. It’s a great feeling and it’s gotten better and better throughout the game and throughout the tournament.”

That tournament has just one remaining match, against the most familiar of foes: Alex Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands. Five times already this season have Norway and the Netherlands played one another. As Brouwer and Meeuwsen prepared for their semifinal, against Italians Paolo Nicolai and Samuele Cottafava, Mol was asked who he’d prefer to see in the gold medal match.

“Anyone except the Dutchies,” he said with a laugh. “We have played them so many times.”

Brouwer knew, the moment the brackets were published, that the only way they’d meet in Paris would be in the finals.

How else, then, could it have possibly worked out?

Brouwer and Meeuwsen took care of their end of the bargain in the semifinals, beating Cottafava and Nicolai, 27-25, 23-25, 15-9 in a thrilling seesaw of a match that saw Meeuwsen at his absolute best.

CKU Paris ESP-NED 019

“It’s funny, we lose the second set and the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Ah, it has to be the hard way again!’” Meeuwsen said, alluding to a three-set win earlier in the day against Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera. “But it’s just the way we’ve done all tournament. The way we could finish the third set was amazing, a really high level.”

The highest of levels will be required for Sunday’s gold medal match. But if anyone has been able to solve the unsolvable riddle that is the Beach Volley Vikings, it’s Brouwer and Meeuwsen. Of the four full matches they have played this season, they’ve split, 2-2. They only managed a few points in the opening match of the Hamburg Elite16 before Norway withdrew.

Both teams are fully healthy now, and will, in all likelihood, deliver a final befitting a phenomenal atmosphere in Roland Garros.

“It’s been a couple times this season where we’ve been like ‘Alright, we’ve faced you guys too many times,’” Brouwer said of Norway. “This tournament, we were on opposite sides, but if you make it to the finals, you’ll see each other again, and it’s a great matchup to be in the finals against them in Roland Garros for sure. We're both going to push it.”