Hamburg, Germany, August 22, 2017 - For reigning Olympic and world champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, the majority of the 2017 international beach volleyball season has been a disappointment after a 2016 campaign that produced a combined eight gold medal finishes for the German pair on the FIVB World and European Tours.
Except for a 10-day stretch at the end of July and the start of August in Vienna where Ludwig and Walkenhorst captured their World Championship gold medals, the Germans' 2017 season has featured three fifths and a ninth on their international schedule. The latest fifth was at last week’s European Championships in Latvia where Ludwig and Walkenhorst entered the women's competition as the defending champions.
The German pair can now erase a majority of their 2017 disappointments here this week as Ludwig and Walkenhorst will defend their Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals crown that was won last September in Canada. At the inaugural World Tour Finals in 2015 in the United States, Ludwig and Walkenhorst advanced to the gold medal match before losing to Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca in the Fort Lauderdale finale.
After losing their first two matches in Toronto to pairs from Argentina and Switzerland, the second-seeded Ludwig and Walkenhorst won four-straight elimination matches highlighted by wins over Americans April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings in the quarterfinals and Talita/Larissa in the semifinals.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst are seeded 10th in the women's competition this week after receiving a wild card for the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone. The Germans start play Wednesday evening at the Rothenbaum Stadium where Ludwig and Walkenhorst challenge second-seeded Talita and Larissa in the eighth FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams.
The Germans, who conclude pool play Thursday against seventh-seeded Summer Ross/Brooke Sweat of the United States, have won six of seven FIVB World Tour matches against Talita and Larissa with a string of four-straight victories. In addition to the Toronto win, Ludwig and Larissa defeated Talita and Larissa in the Rio Olympic semifinal after downing the Brazilians earlier in the 2016 season for a gold medal in Poland.
The 10-day stretch for Ludwig and Walkenhorst was at the recently-completed FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Austria where the Germans posted an 8-0 match mark in Vienna highlighted by a 2-1 (19-21, 21-13, 15-9) gold medal win on August 5 in 64 minutes over Lauren Fendrick and April Ross of the United States.
After winning matches at an 87 per cent clip last season (75-11) at 14 FIVB and European events, injuries have hindered Ludwig and Walkenhorst's performance in 2017 as the pair has competed in only five events together this season with a 19-5 (79 per cent) with only one gold medal. If you discounted their Vienna play, the Germans have won only 11 of 16 matches (69 percent) with no podiums.
Following Tuesday’s media conference for the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone, Ludwig and Walkenhorst answered questions by FIVB.com:
Laura Ludwig on playing in Hamburg - “In just one word, it’s amazing. We’re looking forward to play here at the Rothenbaum Stadium. Last year we had such an incredible experience here. People came, they are interested in our sport, they are crazy about beach volleyball and now we can give this back to them with the best beach volleyball we can.”
Ludwig on her team’s 2017 season - “It was definitely tough. The preparation was not the best this season for us but we wanted to make the best out of it, especially because of the World Championships. We wanted this title that was the last in our collection and we were fighting hard for it. That definitely took a lot of our energy and we couldn’t play so many tournaments, we didn’t have so much experience playing competition-wise and that’s why it was really special for us to compete at our best level over ten days in Vienna. We did it like this and we’re proud of it.”
Ludwig on playing Americans Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat in pool play - “They are definitely a very tough team. They have good results over the season. They played the bronze medal match in Moscow and they had some other semifinals as well. It’s always tough against them. We’ve already lost to them before and we have had some tough battles. We won in the World Championships but it was definitely a good match by us. We’ll see how they play here”.
Kira Walkenhorst on playing in Hamburg - “A lot of friends are coming, family is coming and we want to show them how we can play. We’re happy that we have this event here and that we can play the best teams in the world on this tournament. There will be a lot of good matches and hopefully they will push us to our best level.”
Walkenhorst on playing Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca in pool play - “We have many good teams here. The last tournaments we met them more close to the end of the tournament, in the semifinals or in the final. Here it’s going to be in the first game and it will be of course a tough match. We know them pretty well and of course they know us as well. Hopefully we can do it again like in Vienna.”