In some small way, you have to credit Markus and Christoph Dieckmann for the beach volleyball success of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann as the German twins celebrate their 45th birthday today in a village close to Düsseldorf.
Prior to their FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship and Olympic successes in 2009 and 2012, respectively, Brink and Reckermann’s career took off when playing with the Dieckmann twins in the 2000s.
“Looking back, it is a funny coincidence, you might think we taught them something,” said Christoph, who played in 33 FIVB events with Brink starting in 2006 while Markus competed in 43 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour tournaments with Reckermann starting in 2000.
“The truth is that when they started to play with us, it was becoming obvious very quickly that these two were the players with the most potential ever in Germany,” Christoph added. “Maybe with Jonas and Julius being younger players, we could teach them a few things by example regarding professional mindset. It was only logical that they would form a team later and be so successful.”
The Dieckmanns started their beach volleyball career playing together with their first international event together being in 1996 as their partnership featured 44 World Tour events along with two European stops through the 2000 season.
“In 1999, we were on a very good way to qualify for the Sydney 2000 Olympics,” said Christoph as he and his brother were the second-ranked Germany team in the World. “The 2000 season was a difficult season with bad performances and injuries, we didn’t make it due to being the third German team in the ranking. After that, Markus decided we should split.”
Oliver Oetke and Andreas Scheuerpflug, who played with different partners in 1998, united for the 1999 season and overtook the Dieckmann twins in 2000 by winning four head-to-head meetings on the World Tour to claim the second German berth in the Sydney Summer Games. Jorg Ahmann and Axel Hager filled the top spot and eventually claimed the bronze medal for the Bondi Olympic competition.
While Markus joined forces with Reckermann in 2000, Christoph sat out that campaign. “I was out with a back injury for almost two years and slowly came back in summer 2002,” said Christoph. “Looking back on the split, this was a golden decision for both of us - for each of our careers and our relationship as twins.”
After splitting with his brother, Markus said he “was looking for a young blocker who was willing to go 100 per cent for the upcoming years. There were not many professional beach volleyball players in Germany back then, for sure no young ones. Jonas was still playing indoors but had played some beach tournaments. I had seen him playing in one game on the national tour and I liked what I saw. So, I asked him. He finished his indoor season, and we started a week later. I had played 99 per cent of the side outs when playing with my brother so it felt good to finally have a young and inexperienced guy at my side who got served so I could put some more energy in defence.”
When asked who is older, Christoph said Markus is four minutes older. “I cannot count how many times he has reminded me of that fact,” said the younger Dieckmann. As for head to head competition against each other, Markus and Reckermann posted a 6-1 mark against Christoph and Scheuerpflug on both the FIVB and European tours.
As for memorable moments with his brother, Christoph said “we had great wins on the strong German National Tour in 1997 and 1998. We made every single World Tour qualifier in 1998 as it was a different system where you kept every single entry point for 365 days. That made it difficult to establish yourself in the main draw.”
In addition to winning FIVB matches against established teams like 1997 world champions Rogerio 'Para' Ferreira/Guilherme Marques of Brazil, Atlanta 1996 bronze medal winners John Child/Mark Heese and Americans Dain Blanton/Kent Steffes, Christoph points to a domestic win in 1997 as the most “memorable. We were 19 and came out of nowhere to win the title.”
Injuries curtailed the twins' careers. “For me, in the end, it was the knee,” said Christoph. “Markus had all kinds of issues and stopped three years earlier. He was one of the most energetic players I’ve ever seen, both in competition and practice, leaving everything out on the court. With that approach, at some point, the body just doesn’t have any more to give.”
In retirement from competition, the Dieckmanns are still contributing as coaches. “To be honest, I still feel like I am taking from the sport. I really enjoy coaching; it gives me a lot.”
Christoph listed several “emotional” moments as a coach highlighted by Olympic qualification by his wife Maria (Tsiartsiani) with Vasiliki Arvaniti at the London 2012 Summer Games where the Greek pair was eliminated by China’s Xue Chen and Zhang Xi during the preliminary rounds.
In coaching Swiss teams recently, Christoph said there were “epic battles of Nadine (Zumkehr) and Joana (Heidrich) in the Rio 2016 Olympic quarterfinal against Brazilians Talita (Antunes) and Larissa (Franca), and Nina (Betschart) and Tanja (Hüberli) in the Hamburg World Champs 2019 semifinal against Canadians Melissa (Humana-Paredes) and Sarah (Pavan) where they had several match points in both games.”
Christoph also noted, “the unexpected London 2012 Olympic qualification with Kay (Matysik) and Jonathan (Erdmann), several European Championship medals, and all the emotional moments shared with my Swiss coaching colleagues in the last nine years will always be great memories.”
The Dieckmanns played during both the sideout and rally scoring eras on the FIVB World Tour and Markus said “I tend to think old-school but, in this case, I have to go with rally scoring. I like the American domestic tour’s way with the freeze at match point and I would like to see the FIVB giving it a try.”
As for his most memorable moments playing with Christoph, Markus said “the whole 1998 season was great. We were living our dream. We were new on tour, playing beach volleyball 365 days a year, traveling all around the world, playing most and beating at least some of our idols we would know from television.”