Olympic medal closer than ever for Swiss women

The country is set to go to Tokyo with a strong group of players

Winning an Olympic medal in beach volleyball remains an elusive dream for Switzerland’s women, but the upcoming Tokyo Games will most likely represent the country’s best-ever opportunity to see a team standing on the podium at the conclusion of the event.

Even though the qualification process is still ongoing, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which either Nina Betschart/Tanja Huberli or Joana Heidrich /Anouk Verge-Depre, currently ranked seventh and eighth in the Olympic ranking respectively, don’t make the cut. And once they’re there, the Swiss will certainly compete with the best in the world, just like they’ve been doing over the last few years.

Heidrich and Zumkehr's fifth-place finish in Rio is Switzerland's best Olympic result so far

Ranked ninth in the FIVB World Rankings, the 25-year-old Betschart and the 28-year-old Huberli have amassed some good results since they joined forces in 2016. The two have won five FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour medals, some of them in the most important international tournaments, such as the Major events in Klagenfurt in 2016 and Porec in 2017.

Their most notable result, however, might be their fourth-place finish at the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Hamburg, the best result for a European team in the event.

The 29-year-old Heidrich and Verge-Depre also proved to be a force at the continental level when they won last year’s European Championships in Jurmala. They also have a World Tour title to their names after they won a 4-star event in Moscow in 2019.

The pair, who rank eighth in the world now, are both Rio 2016 Olympians and were part of Switzerland’s best-ever campaign at the Games, which saw Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr finish fifth while Verge-Depre and Isabelle Forrer were ninth.

“I think both teams are doing really well right now,” Betschart explained. “We’re a small country so to think that we have two teams among the top ten in the world is crazy. Finishing fifth at the Olympics is something really difficult to accomplish, so it’s hard to tell that we’re going to deliver the best result our country has ever had in the Olympics, but we’ll certainly try.”

Heidrich and Verge-Depre have grown to become a top team in the world over the last few years

The recipe for Switzerland’s current success revolves around two essential pillars for any winning programme in beach volleyball – talented players and experienced and efficient coaching staff.

The current group of players is arguably the strongest the country has ever had and the work done by the coaching staff led by former German player Christoph Dieckmann, a 2006 European champion during his playing career, is highly appreciated by the players. 

“I think there’s a little bit of luck involved because this generation has three tall players in Joana, Anouk and me and we are all basically the same age,” Huberli added. “But we also have one of the best coaching staffs on tour. They work hard and want to make us better every day and we wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

Betschart and Huberli were semifinalists in the last edition of the World Championship

The success of the current generation was seen coming for a long time as Heidrich, Verge-Depre and Betschart have between them four victories in FIVB age-group World Championships and five victories at the youth and junior levels in European beach volleyball between 2011 and 2015.

A new generation of players, which includes Verge-Depre’s and Betschart’s younger sisters Zoe and Mara, is already taking its first steps to keep the country in a strong position internationally for years to come.

“We really believe it won’t stop with us,” Betschart added. “We have some talented young players who are trying to get better and a system that’s clearly good, so we have every reason to believe they’ll continue to improve and get good results for our country in the future.”

Go to:
Cancun Hub - 2nd event
Cancun Hub - 2nd event - Match schedule
Provisional Olympic ranking - Men
Provisional Olympic ranking - Women

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