Vikings can't win them all - Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov set for epic rivalry

Lausanne, Switzerland, February 4, 2020 - The year 2019 was certainly one to remember for beach volleyball and it was a year when we witnessed what is potentially the sport's biggest rivalry growing nicely between Norway and Russia. It has all the ingredients to go on for several years, but even in the short term will certainly keep fans talking and guessing whilst also setting up an entertaining 2020 including the full FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour schedule and the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Norway or as they are more commonly known ‘The Beach Volley Vikings’ ended the 2018/2019 with some incredible achievements that included being ranked number 1 in the world, claiming FIVB Team of The Year honours and becoming European champions. They also won World Tour events in Las Vegas, Itapema, Jinjiang, Ostrava, Gstaad, Tokyo and Vienna and took home an unrivalled set of individual awards including ‘Most Outstanding, Best Setter, Best Blocker, Best Offensive Player’ for Anders Mol and ‘Best Defender’ for Christian Sorum for the second year running.

The Vikings' record speaks volumes, but what makes the rivalry between Norway and Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov so intriguing is that even though Norway seemed to win almost everything last year, it was the Russian pairing that won arguably the biggest two events of the season. On July 7, they became the FIVB world champions by defeating Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler of Germany in the final in Hamburg, and they defeated the same team at the World Tour Finals in Rome on September 8. For the Russians' Estonian coach Rivo Vesik, it was not a surprise. It was all part of a bigger vision where they had planned to win two big titles but it meant they had to accept poorer performances in a periodised plan to success.

“Our goal was actually set on the World Championships and European Championships, which were held in Moscow. Our first goal was the World Championships and we had to sacrifice our performance at some tournaments, and some medals, to prepare for the biggest one of the season. I'm very happy that the players trusted us and our decisions on that. I understand the players, their motivation and their willingness to win everything, but as a coach I am sure that you can not win it all. So we agreed with the players that some tournaments would be bad, and some very bad, but that it was for the better and bigger cause.”

Vesik twice finished fifth at the the FIVB World Championships himself and started coaching Stoyanovskiy in 2014, with his then partner Artem Yarzutkin. After meeting Stoyanovskiy’s father whilst on vacation in Thailand, he spent two years coaching the young Russians on a journey that saw them win the European U22 Championships in Baden, Austria. When Stoyanovksiy teamed with Krasilnikov, Vesik stayed with the 207cm blocker and oversaw the team's run to World Championship glory, alongside the other members of the pair's staff.

“First of all we have a head coach, Vyacheslav Nirka, with whom we work together with three to five teams in the Russian national team. We have help from physios, doctors, a physical coach, and statistics and coaching from Maksim Royuk. We also have help from the Russian federation, which is huge! We have a big team and I am not coaching them alone. We all help each other. My journey started more with Oleg and we had some good results, and from those results I ended up in the national team and have the privilege to work with Oleg, Salva and the rest of the team”.

Viacheslav Krasilnikov at full stretch during the 2019 World Tour Finals in Rome

Vesik speaks honestly about a 2019 season for Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov where they had the magnificent highs of becoming world champions, World Tour Finals champions and also winning in The Hague and in Xiamen. They also finished only 17th in Gstaad, however, ninth in Moscow on the World Tour and ninth at the European Championships, also in the Russian capital. But Vesik insists it was all part of the process.

“It was the strategy of practices, tournaments, mental and physical preparation that made Oleg and Slava go to the top at the right time. The trust between coach and the player would be the main thing for me. We wanted to win in Rome after a bad run of results. The dip was not supposed to be that deep and long, but I think that gave us an advantage. We knew that some tournaments after the World Championships would be hard, but it went on longer than we had anticipated. In Rome, the guys were hungry again and wanted to show that the World Championship was not a lucky accident. And since we had not played against the Vikings in Hamburg, there were people saying that we would not have won the World Championships had we played them.”

When asked about why the Vikings didn’t win the World Championships or World Tour Finals, Vesik says: “The Vikings had a hell of a season - that's for sure. But you cannot win it all, something somewhere did not click. It could have been the preparation, it could have been the cameras surrounding them always, was it something else? We don’t know, only they can answer that.”

When asked whether the rivalry developing between his team and Sorum/Mol can resemble the one between the USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers and Brazil's Alison Cerutti and Emmanuel Rego, Vesik agrees but suggests: “It can be as great, but every rivalry is different. El Classico is different to the Manchester derby and so on but I love these sorts of rivalries, I feel they have to be in our sport and I feel the media should hype them.”

The team certainly have Olympic gold in their sights this year, but Vesik doesn't want to give any of their secrets away in preparation for a World Tour season that starts up again for them very soon with the Men's tournament at the 4-star event in Doha, Qatar from March 9 to 13.

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