Lausanne, Switzerland, October 27, 2020 – Since Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann retired shortly after their victory at the London 2012 Olympics, Germany had been looking for a men’s team that could succeed at the demanding task of consistently contending for gold medals among the elite of international beach volleyball.
Their search ended in 2019, when Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler made the rapid climb into the top teams on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, moving from being a mid-ranked qualifying team to arguably one of the top five duos in the world.
“For sure we have had a fast way to the top 10,” Wickler reflected. “Two years ago we started in country quotas, qualification matches and we had to fight through all of this. And in two years we made it to the top 10 or maybe top five in the world, but for sure we want to keep going.”
When the 2.06m-tall Julius “The Tower” Thole and Clemens “The Cat” Wickler first joined forces in 2018, thoughts of competing at the Olympics, the World Championships or even the World Tour Finals seemed like a far cry.
But it all changed. And fast.
The Germans started in the qualifier in each of their first ten tournaments together that season and advanced in seven. Most significantly, they claimed a surprise bronze medal in Espinho in what was their introduction to the elite of the sport and would later prove a pivotal point in their upwards trajectory.
That good result earned them a wild card for the World Tour Finals on their home sand of Hamburg, and they didn’t disappoint. With victories over top teams like Italy’s Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai and Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins, the Germans advanced all the way to the semifinals and their fourth-place finish gave their country hope they would confirm their place in the best teams in the world.
The 2019 season started just as strongly for Thole and Wickler, who secured a silver medal early in the year in The Hague and never looked back. After finishing in the top-ten in four of the next five tournaments, they returned to Hamburg as the 12th-seeded team for the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.
They immediately became fan favourites and drew more than 10,000 passionate German fans to the Rothenbaum stadium every time they played. Thole and Wickler had an epic run to the final, eliminating two Olympic champions and four Olympic medallists and former world champions on their way, as well as top favourites Anders Mol and Christian Sørum of Norway. Their setback to Russians Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov in the gold medal match didn’t take anything away from the excitement built around them over those two weeks.
That amazing run, however, didn’t mark the end of their fantastic season. After early eliminations in Espinho and Vienna, the Germans found their best rhythm again and ended the season on a high with a bronze medal in Moscow and silver at the World Tour Finals in Rome.
“The World Championships in our home country were the biggest tournament we have played in so far,” Wickler added. “It was so special, our family and friends were there and the crowd were all cheering for us. And the fact that we managed to medal twice after that makes us very competitive with the best in the world and hopefully the next years will be the same or maybe even better.”
Boosted by their outstanding 2019 season, in which they won the World Tour’s Most Improved Team award, the Germans headed into 2020 targeting their first Olympic appearance. The Games may have been pushed back a year, but that’s not affecting the way they approach the event.
“I am really looking forward to the Olympic Games,” Thole revealed. “It’s my biggest dream to go there with Clemens’. My biggest goal is to enjoy the moment when it happens. So many players have told me it is so difficult to play at the Olympics because there are so many external distractions. It’s important to control what you can and not become too influenced by those external things. And that for sure will be really, really difficult. There are so many great athletes and it's such a huge event.”