2017-06-27 09:03:00 CET

More Than Sports: The grateful Dutchmen

Wildcards Varenhorst/Van Garderen aiming big at the World Champs

Just one month ago, Maarten Van Garderen played in his first ever beach volleyball tournament. Next month, the two-meter tall Dutchman will play in his first beach volleyball World Championships.

When he heard that he and his partner Christiaan Varenhorst received a wildcard for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by A1, the biggest beach volleyball event of the season in Vienna, he was stunned.

“Are you serious?” he asked. “It’s amazing to play in a World Championships in my first season.”

Usually such a newcomer to the beach isn’t afforded the luxury of such an early and unexpected ticket to one of the world’s biggest beach volleyball events.

However, Maarten has his partner to thank for this opportunity. That man is Christiaan Varenhorst – silver medalist and runner-up at the last World Championships back in 2015.

That year, Varenhorst and then partner Reinder Nummerdor came mighty close to winning gold on home sand in The Hague, only to lose out in the final to Brazilians Alison/Bruno.

Beachvolleybalteam Van Garderen - Varenhorst

Beachvolleybalteam Van Garderen - Varenhorst. 7.2K likes. Welkom op de officiële Facebookpagina van Beachvolleybalteam Reinder Nummerdor en Christiaan Varenhorst

At that time, Van Garderen was playing the indoor game for the Dutch national team while in Italy, one of the best league in the world.

Then, in November last year, Maarten received a request from Christiaan, who was looking for a new partner following Nummerdor’s retirement.

“I saw that he is an all-round talent and that his skills could match perfectly with beach volleyball,” Christiaan says. So he decided with the coaching team around Gijs Ronnes, to ask him. Maarten admits he was surprised by the request.

“It’s not normal to play with someone like Christiaan out of nowhere,” he says.

So much so, he needed three months to come to a decision. However, during that time the likes of Margareta Kozuch and Manon Flier, some of the best indoor players in the world, had already switched codes. “It was a hard decision,” the 27-year-old told us, who missed the summer with the indoor national team, which has qualified for the 2018 World Indoor Championships.

But Christiaan understood that he could not blow this chance. For three years, Christiaan and Reinder were at the top of the world. Last year they finished fifth at the Gstaad Major and ninth at Poreč Major - not forgetting the World Championship silver they won two years ago. “Christiaan is the reason why we got the wildcard for this year’s World Championships, and he deserves it,” Maarten says.

We welcome you on our new Instagram-page. Our new partnership starts this week in beautiful Rio de Janeiro. #fivbworldtour #beachteamnl

99 Likes, 2 Comments - Team van Garderen/Varenhorst (@vangarderen.varenhorst) on Instagram: "We welcome you on our new Instagram-page. Our new partnership starts this week in beautiful Rio de..."

Christiaan Varenhorst in action on the Swatch Major Series.Christiaan Varenhorst in action on the Swatch Major Series.

A hard time for the Dutchmen

Playing in the World Championships is a big chance for the newly formed team. However, at the moment, they are enduring a hard time. Maarten, new to beach volleyball, began with no ranking points, so they have had to play qualification. In Rio, Maarten’s first ever beach volleyball tournament, they qualified and won against the top Polish team Kantor/Losiak in the group. But in Moscow, they failed in the qualification stage against Austrian team Huber/ Hörl. “The biggest challenge for me is to reach a level where I can compete with the others,” Maarten says. “At the moment it feels like everyone is better than me.”

He also feels pressure because of Christiaan. “I just want to make sure that he can take some points and stay on the top,” says Maarten. Currently the team have just 816 points and rank number 142 in the FIVB World Ranking. “That’s not what we want.”

Both work hard and have been playing tournaments in Spain and Ukraine to improve but in Poreč and Gstaad they are only on the reserve list and are currently unable to play. That’s in stark contrast to recent years where Christiaan has always been in the main draw. “That´s difficult for me,” he says.

The opportunity to compete at the World Championships is vital to the duo. If they earn a good result in Vienna, they will collect more points and therefore improve their chances for qualifying for future tournaments.

“It’s important to compete with the best teams of the world as we want to prepare for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020,” says Christiaan. “So I am very grateful to the FIVB for this wildcard.”

It’s still not decided whether Maarten will aim for the beach in Tokyo in three years’ time. “I do not regret the change to beach until now,” he says.

For the indoor team it is very hard to qualify for the Olympics. “That’s also one reason why I wanted to try beach,” Maarten adds.

But has yet to make a decision on whether he will commit to a life at the beach after the 2017 season. Maarten has signed a contract with Modena, one of the biggest clubs in the Italian volleyball league, for next season.

“At the moment beach volleyball is a test,” he says.

It remains to be seen if the pair are good enough to compete in Tokyo in 2020, but with the World Championships wildcard, they at least have the opportunity to show their potential.

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