Robert Nowotny’s memorable moments are few as a player, but many as a team manager and coach according to the Austrian beach volleyball icon who celebrates his 47th birthday working at the MaXX SportsCenter today in Vienna.
“We still have a lockdown in Austria and all the sports centres are closed,” Nowotny said. “We have special permission to use the courts and the gym here, but someone has to open and close the centre. So, I am the receptionist, I open the garage and I turn the lights on and off, along with my work on the court.”
Nowotny said with “the lockdown, there are no big celebrations! Today, I’ll be with Clemens (Doppler) and Alex (Horst) at training where I run the drills. Afterward, we’ll have a cake to celebrate my birthday.”
With Doppler and Horst, Nowotny operates the beach volleyball courts for the MaXX SportsCenter. “It is an investment for us,” said Nowotny of the MaXX. “Instead of putting the money in the bank, we built three indoor and three outdoor courts and got way better interests than on an account over the last years.”
Nowotny adds “due to our involvement in the federation, we established here the training-base for the beach volleyball national teams. In regular business hours, the centre hosts tennis, badminton, table tennis, indoor soccer, fitness, kickboxing, capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art) and beach volleyball. But right now, it is just us in the centre.”
Since 2012, Nowotny has been the team manager and coach for Doppler and Horst. The pair has competed in two Olympic Games and placed second at the 2017 FIVB World Championships in Vienna. Doppler and Horst are the most successful Austrian players and team on the World Tour with seven medals and nine final four finishes together.
“I do everything for Doppler and Horst now,” Nowotny added, who was honoured as a 2018 coach of the year by the International Beach Volleyball Coaches Association. “Nik Berger was involved initially, but he is not onboard anymore. He is working now for a second period for the Bureau of Minister of Sports in Austria.”
In addition, Nowotny said he is the “underage national team coach of Austria now. I try to prepare the way for young talents and train the next generations. But I am also still with the seniors, so once or twice a week the oldies have to follow my rules.”
Competing in 84 FIVB-sanctioned events over a 13-season period (1996 through 2008) highlighted by an appearance in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with Peter Gartmayer, Nowotny said he was “an average-skilled player, so the highlights weren´t that many.”
Memorable moment No. 1 for Nowotny as a player was at the end of his first FIVB season in 1996 when he and Stefan Potyka placed second at a Challenger tournament in Ostende, Belgium. “It was like a 2-stars event today,” Nowotny noted. “I had so much sand in my eyes, I couldn´t sleep the whole night!”
Potyka was the first Austrian to compete in an FIVB-sanctioned beach volleyball event as he and Hannes Kronthaler placed ninth at a July 1989 tournament in Jesi, Italy. Potyka served nearly 15 years as the executive vice president of beach volleyball and marketing for the Austrian Volleyball Federation and served two years as the president of the European confederation's beach volleyball commission.
Memorable moment No. 2 for Nowotny was “the final qualifying tournament for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in Mallorca. Peter and I were competing against Canada (John Child/Mark Heese), France (Stephane Canet/Mathieu Hamel) and Russia (Dmitri Barsouk/Roman Arkaev) for the two last spots in Athens. I was so nervous, but I had a solid partner.”
Nowotny and Gartmayer won their first two matches in Mallorca highlighted by a 2-0 (21-16, 21-17) first-round victory over Barsouk and Arkaev. While the Austrians finished ninth in Mallorca, Child/Heese finished 13th with Barsouk/Arkaev and Canet/Hamel placing 25th.
The final memorable moment was Nowotny’s fourth-place finish with Gartmayer at the 2004 South African Open in Cape Town where the Austrians had to win two qualifying matches to advance to the World Tour main draw where they defeated compatriots Berger and Doppler 2-1 (23-21, 15-21, 15-13) in the first round.
Nowotny and Gartmayer posted wins over Athens Olympic participants Ramon Hernandez/Raul Papaleo of Puerto Rico 2-1 (30-28, 13-21, 15-11) and Patrick Heuscher/Stefan Kobel of Switzerland 2-1 (15-21, 21-15, 15-9) in their next two matches and advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 (21-11, 21-17) win over Benjamin Insfran/Harley Marques of Brazil.
As a competitor during both eras of FIVB beach volleyball scoring - sideout and rally, Nowotny said “it was good that the sport changed to rally scoring. It doesn´t matter what is better for me or any other single person - it is good for the development of our sport, we needed this more dynamic scoring system.”
Nowotny said he “also likes that the sport is still looking for new ideas. I appreciate that we look for improvements. In general, I think that we need adjustments in our sport. For example, I think of setting issues. The spectators don´t understand the difference between indoor and beach settings. Why are there different levels of technical executions.”
When asked about the world’s best competitors, Nowotny said “there are so many good players. During my playing days, Igor Kolodinsky of Russia was the best server. Ricardo Santos of Brazil left a footprint over decades and on good days he still can entertain us. He was the blocking-machine and loved private matches with opponents in the game.”
As for today’s players, Nowotny said “Anders Mol of Norway is setting new records. His aggressivity and feeling on the net is outstanding. The younger players are jumping higher and are stronger and faster. It will continue, we will see more tricky actions in the next years. The young Swedish team (Jonatan Hellvig/David Ahman) have already shown us some special actions.”
Nowotny ended his comments by saying “we need to create heroes for the fans and consumers. So, I think we need to analyse every game in real-time - for the TV-presenters, for social media, so that we know who was the best blocker, server, or attacker! “
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020