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2018-06-07 09:56:00 CEST

Doppler/Horst conquer their fears

Home heroes Serve the Sky

Beach Volleyball Major Series

Never before has beach volleyball hit these heights 🤯 #ViennaMajor beachmajorseries.com/servethesky

Up until a year ago, Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst’s finest achievements in beach volleyball were two World Tour silver medals and three appearances at the Olympic Games.

Fast forward 12 months and the Austrian legends have become World Championship finalists on home sand and have now risen above their home city on Vienna’s iconic Riesenrad Ferris wheel following our breathtaking Serve the Sky photoshoot.

But what was more frightening? Playing in front of 10,000 fans on a packed Red Bull Beach Arena in the biggest match of their lives or heading 215 feet (65 meters) in the air to play an entirely different game of beach volleyball?

“Definitely the second one,” laughed Clemens after he had touched down following an hour above the ground. “I wasn’t afraid before, I didn’t think it would be a problem. Alex was the one that was scared but once we were 10 meters off the ground, it was unbelievably scary and it was me that was most afraid.

“But it was probably the best-worst experience of my life. The weather was perfect, the view was amazing and there was no wind. I think if the gondola was shaking then it would have been crazy.

“It was a privilege to be able to stand on the world famous Riesenrad – not inside of it, on top of it – and playing with the ball you love, it’s pretty unique.”

Alex (left) and Clemens back on terra firmaAlex (left) and Clemens back on terra firma

All eyes were on Alex, though. The 35-year-old suffers from vertigo and, with the project team worried he would pull out at the last minute, Austrian rising stars Martin Ermacora and Moritz Pristauz watched on as potential substitutes.

“I was scared as hell, I’m still scared now and I’m never doing that again,” Alex said afterwards. “I once did a bungee jump… but that was when I was a teenager when I didn’t care – but now I do! As we went up, I closed my eyes and had my head close to the floor. Once I heard the Norwegian boys laughing I opened my eyes and saw the view which was unbelievable.”

Doppler/Horst’s results in the past year on the sand have pushed the veterans up to ninth in the World Rankings. However, the pair are playing down a repeat performance at the A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch when they return to the scene of arguably their greatest career memory – the Danube Island.

“We expect nothing, we didn’t last year,” Clemens said. “But we’re looking forward to feeling the vibe on the court. We only have good memories of Vienna and I’m sure it will be just as crazy as it was year.”

Alex added: “We have a 100 per cent record of reaching finals in Vienna.”

Can Clemens and Alex go one better and win gold on home sand this summer? The A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch kicks off on August 1. Entry is free but you can secure tickets and find out more about a range of VIP and hospitality packages by clicking here.

Serve the Sky - Extended

We take you behind-the-scenes of 'Serve the Sky' - touching the clouds 215 feet in the air, two of the world's top teams atop Vienna's iconic Riesenrad Ferris wheel.

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