Lausanne, Switzerland, November 23, 2016 - When it comes to beach volleyball USA's Phil Dalhausser has been there, seen it and done it.
FIVB World Championship gold, Olympic gold, FIVB World Tour titles, USA domestic titles – you name it, he’s won it.Quick links - Beach volleyball:
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Last month Dalhausser was selected the FIVB’s Best Setter for 2016.. It was the American’s 26th FIVB World Tour award of his career and the seventh time in the last eight years that he’s come out on top in the FIVB Best Setter category.
“I probably get the vote because I’m 6-9!” Phil joked. “I’ve set so many times I’ve probably gotten quite good at it – but I’m not going to sit here and say I’m the best in the world.”
It barely seems five minutes that the 2016 FIVB season ended in Toronto at the 2016 Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals – but before you know it the 2017 season will burst back into action with a trip to Florida and the 2017 FIVB World Tour opening at the Swat FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major in February.Phil Dalhausser in action at the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto in September
It’s a beautiful part of the world that Dalhausser knows particularly well.
“I’ve played on that beach numerous times, I remember when I first started out and played in amateur tournaments there,” says the American. “It’s a great stop for the FIVB World Tour and I love going there so it should be a good event.”
He was a silver medalist on this very beach when he and teammate Nick Lucena lost in the gold medal match of the 2015 Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals to Brazil’s Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt.
But as you reel off Dalhausser’s glittering list of tournament success and the mountain of medals you quickly get the impression that he’s a modest man – yet it’s hard not to be fascinated with this legend’s achievements in the sport.
In January, Dalhausser will turn 37. He’s already entered veteran territory but try telling that to him and his fellow pros who were unable to stop him and Lucena from winning four of the 13 competitions they entered in the 2016 campaign, including the smart FIVB Hamburg Major in Germany last June.
And, although there’s an element of disappointment running through his voice as he talks about defeats in three finals this year – including the frustration of an early exit at the 2016 Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals and a fifth-place finish at the Rio Olympics – he’s still pretty pumped at what he and Lucena achieved in the past 12 months.
“I’m pretty proud of what we did in 2016,” Dalhausser said. Nobody gave us a chance of qualifying for the Olympics but we went on a nice little run at the end of 2015 and at the beginning of 2016 and I think we played pretty well.
“Obviously it was a good feeling – but to be honest I didn’t give ourselves much of a chance either. We played just 13 events so what we did in the end was cool.
“Winning in Hamburg was a particular highlight. Nick had never won a Swatch Major Series event on the FIVB World Tour or a FIVB Grand Slam before so that was a big part of last year.”
Having pocketed an impressive eight medals from those 13 international tournaments on the FIVB World Tour in 2016 at the age of 36, Phil isn’t thinking of retiring – oh no. In fact he’s hungry for more success in 2017.
“Our focus is the FIVB World Championships in Vienna and the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals,” he says. “Last season was stressful with the Olympics, and I think every year after an Olympics is a little less demanding. There’s not so much travelling but Nick and I won’t be playing in the Opens. It would be nice to, but it’s getting tougher and tougher to take off and leave the kids behind. There’s a lot of stress involved.”
Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of Dalhausser and Todd Rogers’ glorious FIVB World Championship victory in the mountains of Gstaad – one of four memories that sticks out proudly at the forefront of the Swiss-born blocker’s mind.Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers celebrate their victory at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Naturally another one of those success stories was the breathtaking victory in the Olympic final of 2008 where Dalhausser/Rogers stormed to gold by beating Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Fabio Luiz Magalhaes in Beijing.
“When I first started on the FIVB World Tour I was the tallest!” he laughs. “Now I’m probably the 10th tallest maybe. Beach volleyball’s definitely got bigger and it’s got better and it’s never been deeper than it has been right now. I played at my best when I was around 30. That’s the age Alison and Bruno are right now so I’m not surprised they’re playing so well.”
“In beach volleyball you reach your peak when you’re a little older, probably when you’re about 30. So in terms of age I have experience over the younger guys, and, even though they might be a little bigger or are more agile than me, I have a little edge when it comes to experience and I think that’s important.”
“There are always areas in my game which I can improve, especially as the game has evolved a little bit in the past 10 years,” he says. “My ball control has to be better.”
Another noticeable change in the game in Phil’s time on the sand has been the gradual shift in power between teams from America and South America to the competition from Europe.
Of the 30 medals that were up for grabs across the four Swatch Major Series stops portion of the 2016 FIVB World Tour and the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals, the winning split was exactly half and half – 15 beautiful shiny, triumphant discs of precious metal each went to teams either side of the Atlantic.
“Europe has caught up with the North and South Americans,” admits Dalhausser. “There are a lot of good teams in Europe right now when it used to be dominated by Americans and Brazilians.
“I think one reason behind that is the investment by the European federations. There is now equal focus between indoor and beach volleyball. Federations are now thinking they can win two medals in beach and two in indoor at the Olympics. The resources available has now shifted to beach and that’s why there’s an influx of young talent coming out of Europe in beach volleyball right now.”
Who knows what the next chapter will be for the man known as the Thin Beast – but what we do know is that it’s going to be one explosive ride finding out…
Read more on swatchmajorseries.com: Thin Beast Phil eyeing World Champs glory in 2017