Anders Mol (NOR)

Before the Olympics in Tokyo and during the pool stage of the beach volleyball tournament at Shiokaze Park, Anders Mol and Christian Sorum were just not the powerful and formidable Beachvolley Vikings the world had grown accustomed to seeing on the sand. They seemed to have lost their confidence, they were struggling on the court and they were getting eliminated earlier than expected...

But they have now made it to the Olympic semifinals and it looks like they are back.

Mol skipped Doha (the first 4-star event on the 2021 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour) as he was recovering from some health problems, but he rejoined Sorum for two of the Cancun tournaments and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The Norwegians claimed gold at both.

But something definitely seemed out of the ordinary when they finished 17th in Sochi, ninth in Ostrava and even fifth in Gstaad, in some cases losing to teams that did not make it to the Olympics. Mol and Sorum even gave up the number one spot on the FIVB World Ranking they had owned for years.

“It is hard to say why. We’d love to know why we were off,” 24-year-old blocker Mol told Volleyball World. “It’s a game of rhythm. It’s a game of confidence, a really mental game, and if you’re not 100% on, then you’re not going to be able to play at the best level. We were just struggling a little bit, trying to find rhythm. I was struggling in my game... It’s difficult to say. I would love to know the reason, but I don’t really know.”

If anyone thought the Vikings were just saving themselves for the biggest event of the year, it turns out they were wrong. Because even on the Olympic court, Mol and Sorum were not their usual selves. In their first match, they lost a set to Australian underdogs Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann.

Then they shut out Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira, but the Spaniards made them work for their victory. In their last pool match, the Norwegians lost to Ilya Leshukov and Konstantin Semenov of ROC in straight sets to advance to the knockouts as pool runners-up.

“We were struggling with finding our rhythm here at the Olympic stadium. We felt a little off,” Mol admitted.

In the elimination rounds, when they were no longer entitled to make mistakes, the Vikings started playing more and more the way everybody expects them to. They went past the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen in two sets to arrange another meeting with Leshukov and Semenov in the quarterfinals. That game looked nothing like the one they lost in pool play.

Mol and Sorum celebrate their win over Brouwer and Meeuwsen

Mol and Sorum celebrate their win over Brouwer and Meeuwsen

“We played a really good game today and the Russians also played a really good game. I think we played better than in the pool and that was the difference,” commented Mol after the match. “I think we made fewer mistakes and the strategy was just to play better and enjoy it. And make sure that we hang on with our side-out, we don’t make any mistakes there and we are really sharp in block and defence. That went well. So we won.”

But could the difference have come from the different motivation when they could no longer afford to lose?

“I don’t think the motivation was any different, because we never want to lose against the Russians,” said Mol. “It’s always a battle against them and we always give it our all. I think it was just a matter of confidence in those two games, because right now we’re playing with a lot of confidence and in the pool phase we didn’t play our best. So I think that made the difference. Now we are finding our game step by step and we feel a lot better.

“Now it looks like we’re back!”

Mol spikes past Semenov’s block

Mol spikes past Semenov’s block

They are now in the Tokyo 2020 semifinals, just one win away from an Olympic medal, two wins away from an Olympic gold.

“Now we are really, really happy! The feeling is amazing!” Mol exclaimed. “Fighting for the medals at the Olympics is just a dream come true, and we hope to bring some back to Norway.”

“It’s amazing!” 25-year-old defender Sorum confirmed. “Semifinal at the Olympics is huge!”

Mol and Sorum celebrate their country’s first Olympic semifinal on the beach

Mol and Sorum celebrate their country’s first Olympic semifinal on the beach