Her appointment to the FIVB’s Athletes Commission could be seen as an early 29th birthday present for Anouk Vergé-Dépré, but the Swiss beach volleyball standout just feels “honoured that the athletes give me their trust to represent them.”
Vergé-Dépré also noted that her role as the vice president of the International Beach Volleyball Players Association (IBVPA) will help with her new FIVB duties. “I really have the direct feedback from players,” she added. “We can make surveys and get the players involved. It’s about representing the player’s opinion and not my own.”
The reigning European champion with Joana Heidrich, Vergé-Dépré celebrates her birthday today in her hometown of Bern “since we are not supposed to meet a lot of people. I will have a glass of wine with my family.”
Volleyball has played a major role in her life. Her father (Jean-Charles Vergé-Dépré) played for the French national team and later played and coached in Switzerland. Her mother (Sandra Bratschi) represented Switzerland and played on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in the late 1990s.
Vergé-Dépré’s younger sister (Zoé), who celebrates her 23rd birthday on February 23, started playing full-time on the World Tour in 2018 and has also won an FIVB event at an August stop in Slovenia with Esmée Böbner.
“I can’t thank them enough,” said Vergé-Dépré about her parents' role in her volleyball career. “They gave me the passion for the game. I was around the courts a lot, first as a baby then as a ball kid and then slowly starting to play myself. It’s wonderful that we get to share this passion together.”
As for her sister, Vergé-Dépré said “we played each other last week in the Nations Clash in Düsseldorf. Joana and I won 20 so the family hierarchy is still in place. It’s always weird to play against someone you know so well. I am glad though she is growing in the same sport and I have family on tour, such a gift.”
The elder Vergé-Dépré sister has three FIVB beach gold medals to her credit starting with an Under-21 World Championship title in 2012 with Nina Betschart in Canada where the Swiss defeated Rebecca Cavalcanti and Drussyla Costa of Brazil in the two-set finale.
Four years later, Vergé-Dépré was winning her first gold medal with Isabelle Forrer at an April 2016 stop in Xiamen, China. Nearly two years ago in Moscow, Vergé-Dépré collected her second World Title as she and Heidrich topped the podium in Moscow.
“My first World Tour win in China with Isa was very memorable,” said Vergé-Dépré, “along with the gold medal with Joana in 2019 in Moscow where we were fighting our way back from an injury and it was a difficult period. I strongly remember the first game I had in 2012 at Shanghai against Mexico (Bibiana Candelas/ Mayra Garcia). I think we changed the side at a 0:7 and I hit about five times straight in the block of Bibi and twice on the defence of her partner. I was so nervous.”
The next World Tour event for Vergé-Dépré will be her 89th as she played in her first 60 tournaments with Forrer as the pair placed on four podiums and competed in six semifinals together with a 129-130 match mark.
Vergé-Dépré and Forrer ended their career together by placing ninth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games followed by a bronze medal at the Toronto FIVB World Tour Finals. Two of their Rio Olympic setbacks were to medal winners Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States. In Toronto, the Swiss pair captured third-place by defeating Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
The Vergé-Dépré/Heidrich partnership has also netted four medals and six final four finishes for Switzerland as the pair has compiled a 66-48 match mark together highlighted by four appearances in gold medal matches.
When asked about the difference in play with Heidrich as compared to Forrer, Vergé-Dépré said “it’s so different. I am playing on the left side now and as a defender. Before I was a blocker and on the right side. Everything changed for me. With Isa, I was the youngster.”
As for the gold medal with Heidrich at the 2020 European Championships in Latvia, Vergé-Dépré said “I am proud of our whole team. We kept the focus and never gave up even if we were down in some of the games. It was the right mix between fight, trust and a calm attitude to play every single ball.”
In the September event, Vergé-Dépré and Heidrich posted elimination wins over major rivals from the Netherlands (Sanne Keizer/Madelein Meppelink) and Germany (Margareta Kozuch/Laura Ludwig before defeating Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals.
When asked about the lack of competition in 2020 due to the pandemic, Vergé-Dépré said “we had the time to go more into detail last year and took time to go deeper into topics like our mental game, technique and physical strength. We learned to not think a lot ahead but stay in the moment.”
As for the Tokyo Olympics being delayed, Vergé-Dépré said “we got extra time to prepare. This will help us to be even better players next summer.”
With her next event scheduled for Qatar next month with Heidrich, Vergé-Dépré said the tournament “in Düsseldorf started to get us in the game rhythm. Now it’s time to find some fine-tuning and add the explosive work in the physical preparation so we are ready to compete in Doha.”
With Kerri Walsh Jennings still competing in her 40s, Vergé-Dépré was asked about seeking Olympics berths in 2024, 2028 and 2032? “Ha-ha,” she said, “and I will never say never but I will first set focus on Tokyo and then I will see where the journey goes. If Covid-19 teaches me anything then it’s that plans are overestimated.”
When asked about life after playing, Vergé-Dépré said “I want my beach volleyball to reach its full potential. I want players to be able to earn a living from the sport with the best level shown on television. If it does not happen before I am done, I will continue to work for it after my active career. And, I want to have a family.”
Read more: Roster 100: Vergé-Dépré & Heidrich