Challenge - La Paz, MEX - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News

BPT Challenge Doha Men - Round of 16 - AUSvsNED_02

De Groot has played in only three Beach Pro Tour events in 2022

For an athlete, there’s never a good moment to sustain an injury, but the one that sidelined Yorick De Groot for most of last year came with particularly brutal timing for him. The 22-year-old Dutch was just a few months removed from the best results of his still young career and had the biggest events of the season just ahead of him in May 2022, when he was forced to take a prolonged break from the sport.

His long wait, however, is about to come to an end as partner Stefan Boermans and him are set to compete at next week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour's La Paz Challenge, in Mexico, and reunite for the first time in ten months.

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The two were among the sensations of the 2021 international beach volleyball season, when they won the prestigious FIVB World Tour event in Gstaad, Switzerland, and took silver at the European Championship, in Vienna, emerging to first place in the FIVB World Rankings along the way. De Groot and his partner had big plans to keep growing in 2022, but after just the third event of the season, everything changed.

When he returned home from the Beach Pro Tour Doha Challenge, where they had finished fourth, De Groot noticed some discomfort between his ribs. He kept training and preparing for the next few months, which would feature several Elite16 events and the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship, but the pain didn’t get any better – on the contrary, it worsened to a point that he would have problems breathing and wake up at night every time he turned.

The diagnosis of a thoracic hernia was a mixed bag for De Groot as, although he now knew what he was dealing with, the path for his recovery remained very much unclear.

“There aren’t many cases of thoracic hernia out there, so the doctors couldn’t give me a clear path,” he told Volleyball World. “We wanted to avoid surgery because it typically comes with a lot more complications, so all they could tell me was that it could take anywhere from six to 12 months for me to get better. But to continue playing was not an option because the consequences could be very serious to not only my career but my life, so we were sure from the start that we weren’t going to rush anything.”

The next months were the hardest in De Groot’s recovery process as, while Boermans was playing with Matthew Immers in the inaugural Beach Pro Tour season (and even won gold at the Agadir Challenge), he couldn’t do much more than rest and wait.

Five months into his recovery, the defender started doing some light work to improve his form. He remained patient and gradually evolved to being able to practice on the sand and after the eighth month, was cleared to work without restrictions.

“The timing for the injury was as bad as it could be as the World Championships and the other big tournaments were only a few weeks away,” he added. “It was weird to suddenly have a lot of free time, but I was fortunate to have my friends and family around the entire time. I think every recovery process has its ups and downs and it was the same with mine, but I didn’t have any setbacks since I started training on the sand again and I’m glad for that.”


De Groot and Boermans were among the most succesful teams in the 2021 season

Now fully recovered, De Groot is back to his usual training rhythm and has even joined Boermans in their traditional trip to Fuerteventura, Spain, where they have a winter training camp ahead of the first event of the season.

Their return in La Paz will serve as a big test for the Dutch as they prepare for the remainder of the season, but De Groot is confident they will be competitive even after his long break.

“At the start of the year, I couldn’t tell if I was going to be able to play in La Paz, but everything has been going well, I have no more pain and am excited to play again,” the defender remarked. “I’m feeling well physically and our coaches and I have made some adjustments in my game so I don’t force my back that much. It’s the first event after my return, so we’re curious to see where we are at, but I believe we can play at a high enough level already. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t go to Mexico. We’re getting better every week and I’m confident we can get back to our level very soon.”

Winning or losing in La Paz, De Groot will have good memories to take from the first tournament after his return. With several major events coming up over the next few months, he’ll have plenty to play for in 2023, but will for sure approach things differently now.

“In general, I’m just happy to be able to play again because this was uncertain for some time,” he reflected. “I think we normally go from one tournament to another and don’t really appreciate it, so not being able to play for some time really made me realise how much I love it. And to be able to return right at the start of the Olympic qualification period and still on time to play in the 2023 World Championship, I think the timing was on my side this time.”