This article was originally published on Ben Saxton's website.
After a short (year and half) hiatus, I've decided to see if I've still got it. By "it" I don't mean the ability to write thought provoking, inspirational tales of wit and wisdom, but rather the ability to write anything legible and coherent. It's an ambitious goal, I realize, but I take a lot of plane rides with nothing better to do, so I think that means I've got what it takes, right? Since it's been so long since my last post, I'll give a brief synopsis of how the last year went, followed by a quick take of the Lucerne Open, then a short insight into what's to come. Brief + Quick + Short = Probably too much writing, but bear with me.
Last season we won some games and lost some others, yada yada yada, lots of training, and now here we are.
Too brief? Fine, here are the highlights:
- Chaim and I got our first FIVB podium with a Bronze at the Parana Open in Argentina
- We followed it up with Gold at the NORCECA Championships in Tobago
- Klagenfurt and Stavanger, two of the players favorite Grand Slams, returned to the FIVB World tour
- Went to see "Price is Right" live with a few other volley notables (see picture below)
- The Calgary Flames made the playoffs, and beat the Canucks in round 1
- I grew a playoff beard
- I shaved off the playoff beard
Lucerne was a little bittersweet, with an emphasis on the bitter. When I was younger, having to qualify week after week, 25th was a sign of progress, it meant I was winning a few games and getting to compete against the best teams for 2 or 3 extra matches per tournament. But these days, it's more of a motivator that more needs to be done to prevent future early exits. The city of Lucerne is a beautiful place and hosted a very nice, well run, tournament. I hope to come back in future years to better my own experience of it, but as a player so focused on one objective, the rest of the experience often gets clouded by a poor performance. The best way to look at it was that as Lucerne was our first event of the 2015 season, and so it was a good warm up for the Grand Slams coming up, and gave us a good idea of what fixes can be made before then.
Now on to what's to come. I'm not sure what is most notable about this year's FIVB season, but there are certainly plenty of developments, so I'll start by mentioning the FIVB Major Series. This will be comprised of 3 of this year's tour stops (Croatia, Norway, Switzerland) and then a season finale in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I still don't have all the information, but it's my understanding that Swatch and Red Bull will be the major sponsors and are looking to make all the events similar to Klagenfurt (aka, As big as it gets for beach volleyball). This is exciting news for the players and the fans alike, and hopefully big news for the sport itself to grow into something bigger.
The next big thing this season (and in my opinion, the most anticipated) is the FIVB World Championship being held in 4 cities in the Netherlands; den Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Appeldorn. Worlds are always a big deal wherever they are held, and the Hague always puts on a good event, so I am really looking forward to early July. Chaim and I will be playing our pool play matches in the Hague, which this year will be played in a floating stadium in the heart of the city, just in case anyone happens to be in the neighborhood, it will be worth coming out to watch.
Finally, this season starts the Olympic qualification process. When the time comes, all eyes will be on the teams at the games, but it's the next two seasons that brings out the best in them. Everyone is ready to get the Grand Slams started and the season underway as we all battle to make our way to Rio.
That's all I've got for now, next week we'll head to Norway to train with Horrem/Eithun, and other athletes around their training facilities, and then to Moscow for the first Grand Slam or the season. I'll try to write another blog or two in weeks to come, but no guarantees.