Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 7, 2017 – Still a bit dazed after the 2016 Rio Olympics, Karla Borger suddenly found herself as a beach volleyball player without a partner. And she actually was considering retirement after her partner, Britta Buthe, called it quits on her career.
Margareta Kozuch was a bit dazed herself. The legendary German indoor player was an athlete without a team after the club in China she was ready to sign with for in 2017 was dissolved.
At the German Beach Championships in October, Borger was still pondering her future when Kozuch walked past. The two didn’t know each other, but were well aware of each other. Buthe nudged Borger and said, “Hey, there’s your potential new partner.”Quick links - Beach volleyball:
Fort Lauderdale Major Series - WebsiteFort Lauderdale Major Series - Schedule and resultsFort Lauderdale Major Series - Teams - Men
Fort Lauderdale Major Series - Teams - WomenFIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 2017
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Swatch Major Series 2017Latest VideosFacebookTwitterInstagramMedia Guides
“I went like ‘True.’ Yeah, she’s right,” Borger said.
Borger thought about it and three days later, gave Kozuch a call. Even though the 29-year-old had never stepped on the sand to play before, Borger was offering her a job. So, who would be crazier, Borger for asking or Kozuch for accepting?
They both laugh heartily at the question.
“People said maybe Karla will look for a new partner because Britta will not continue to play, but to me it was nothing real,” Kozuch said. “When she called me it started to be a real option. With her energy, I know what kind of player she is.
“I think we have the similar vibration, the similar frequency. Probably sometimes we need somebody to balance us.”
Which can be translated as someone needs to step in and stop Karla and Maggie from giggling too much with each other.
But here they are in the season-opening Fort Lauderdale Major, prepared to jump into the $600,000 tournament – ready or not.
In terms of enthusiasm, they’re in midseason form. In terms of volleyball, well, they didn’t actually step on the sand together until they arrived in Tenerife to train in January.
“I have so much to learn and grow and I had to start right away,” Kozuch said. “I was thinking about jumping (in the sand) and I told Karla and she said ‘Maggie, you’re not thinking about jumping in October.’ I couldn’t wait to start.
“I’m having fun. Sometimes I’m expecting too much from me and I worked on that. After 20 years or so of an indoor career, it’s normal that I regressed a lot but I have to be patient because it’s completely new and different. It’s incredible for me how every little detail counts and this makes it really interesting.”A focused Karla Borger of Germany
Borger, the almost hyperactive defensive whiz, knew she would have to exercise plenty of patience after six years of a partnership with Buthe, the calming influence of a team that played in 77 tournaments from 2010-16.
Was she risking the stability that Buthe brought with having two energetic players on the same side of the net?
Borger definitely considered the yin-yang philosophy that can be the foundation of a chemistry on a two-player team. What actually concerned her was that in actuality, she wasn’t concerned.
“I wasn’t worried, but still there was something in my mind,” Borger admitted. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. I was never doubting and that’s actually curious, because if you never saw a person play and you’re not doubting – but when I saw her for the first time in the sand, I was like, no, it’s good.”
They had a little support behind the scenes from an unlikely source.
When the team was announced, it was Buthe who gave them her blessing with a vote of confidence.
“She just made comments that went straight to the heart,” Kozuch said. “It was big, and they’ve been together for the past years. It tells me a lot about the great personality she is.”
They take that personality to the court for the first time Wednesday when the main draw opens in the first Swatch Major Series event of the year that culminates with the World Tour Finals in late summer. It will be interesting to see if they’re still giggling together.