Three weeks ago, Corinne Quiggle and Allie Wheeler had a unique issue. Though they had been training virtually non-stop for the previous year-and-a-half, they arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria for their first one-star FIVB event of the season only to find that they could barely serve a ball over the net, so bad were the nerves of competing internationally for the first time in nearly 20 months.
“We’re at the service line with our knees shaking and our hands shaking and I’m like ‘Oh, my gosh, I know how to serve,’” Quiggle recalled a week later, when her and Wheeler were in Sochi, Russia, for a four-star.
They figured it out just fine. They’d survive the nerves that come with competing in a qualifier halfway around the world, growing stronger and smoother as the tournament went on.
Four days later, Quiggle and Wheeler were atop the podium, getting gold medals put around their necks, their first victory as a team without a single loss along the way.
“Obviously this tournament is similar to the last tournament and we’re going to want to shoot for gold again, but it’s still a strong tournament,” Quiggle said of this weekend’s one-star, which is again being held at Sofia Beach. “Just focus forward.”
For Quiggle and Wheeler to win again, they will have to follow the same route they did three weeks ago, beginning with two wins in Thursday’s qualifier. The points from their gold medal haven’t yet been counted towards their entry points. Not that they’d do anything differently. They’d still have returned home, to Los Angeles, putting seven days in the sand with their coach, Arthur Carvalho. They’d still make the same tweaks, aim for the same improvements.
They’d still be a better team than they were three weeks ago, whether they were main draw or not.
“It was really good to be back home just to mentally reset and get back in a rhythm and get good adjustments and make sure our bodies are good and feeling really healthy and good,” Wheeler said. “We feel really good, energised, healthy and ready to go.”
The men’s winners of the previous Sofia one-star, Russia’s Aleksandr Kramarenko and Maksim Hudyakov, will have a shorter path to the finals than Wheeler and Quiggle. They began the last one-star as the fifth seed, and didn’t lose a single set en route to a gold medal. In Sofia this weekend, they are the fourth seed, behind Italians Andrea Abbiati and Tiziano Andreatta, Russians Petr Bakhnar and Valeriy Samoday, and Italians Jakob Windisch and Tobia Marchetto.
Returning for the women are Venezuelans Norisbeth Gonzalez and Gabriela Brito, who won silver, as well as Austrian sisters Dorina and Ronja Klinger, who took bronze. Fifth-place finishers Aleksandra Gromadowska and Kinga Legieta of Poland and Anita Dave and Sofia Starikov of Israel will be back.
But for all the returners, for how similar this field looks, only one, men or women, made the 13-hour trek across the Atlantic. Only one team took a full reset.
“I know a bunch of teams stayed out here and trained but we talked to Arthur before and he said sometimes four weeks without practice, all in the tournament mode, is different,” Quiggle said. “For our team, we want that reset, we want that training, because that’s what we do. We need to train hard and make sure we put in that effort and we’re on it to be successful. It was a good reset for us to come back home, get some good work done in the sand, and this is our new goal, this is our one focus.”
Added Wheeler: “You just have to look forward. We have to prove ourselves again.”
Sofia Beach Open 2
Men's entry list
Women's entry list
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020