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2018-07-31 20:15:00 CEST

The wildcards aiming for Major gold

Kim Behrens and Sandra Ittlinger on their rise to the top

Kim (left) and Sandra deep in conversation during the Swatch Major GstaadKim (left) and Sandra deep in conversation during the Swatch Major Gstaad

German wildcards Kim Behrens and Sandra Ittlinger are proud that their performances this season has earned them a place in the Vienna main draw – and now the pair want to prove it by winning gold on the Danube Island.

Their first season together has been a success for 24-year-old Sandra and Kim, 25. The duo have finished in the top 10 in all but one of the 11 World Tour tournaments they have competed in this year.

That 17th-place came in Gstaad but their rise up to 13th in the current world rankings has come thanks to a string of strong performances in four and five star tournaments, including a ninth at the Fort Lauderdale Major back in March.

One more night here in Fort Lauderdale! So nice be part of this amazing tournament! @beachmajorseries First match against Brazil! 💪🏻 let's work hard and until the end! #ftlmajor #maindraw #letsgo #oneteam #fighting #untiltheend #sport #motivation #athlete #teamgermany #einfra #deutscheenergie #wwkversicherung #ipanema #maxxistyres

387 Likes, 8 Comments - Behrens/Ittlinger Beachteam (@behrensittlinger) on Instagram: "One more night here in Fort Lauderdale! So nice be part of this amazing tournament!..."

The duo won a silver medal at the one-star competition in Holland last October, but now they want to end the season with the biggest prize of all: a gold medal at the A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch this week.

“The motivation for this tournament is massive because we feel, having had to qualify for a number of main draws, that we’ve earned this wildcard,” says Kim, who found out the team received the wildcard while preparing for their Gstaad qualifier. “We have enjoyed a great season and we are pleased that the organizers have thought the same.

“We have always finished in the top 10 – except in Gstaad – but now we want to go to that next level and win a medal.”

Sandra agrees. “What’s missing? Well a medal at a top tournament,” she says. “We’ve already achieved a lot and experienced many things already in this first season together and that gives us a good platform. But that’s the next step.”

Having sky-rocketed up the world rankings, the pair now find themselves in the situation where they are battling against fellow German stars of the beach, Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude, Karla Borger/Maggie Kozuch and Victoria Bieneck/Isabel Schneider - two of which they line-up alongside in the main draw in Vienna.

And while Olympic hopes remain on their radar – the pair both realize that they have time on their side – it makes for an interesting next few years for German beach volleyball – especially when you consider reigning Olympic and World Champs Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst will also return.

“It’s great that there are so many good German teams and we feel as though many of them also have gone through what we have experienced, playing in country quota and qualification,” says Kim. “I guess it’s a little bad luck that there are so many good teams but you have to deal with it. We’ve worked our way up every time.”

The team needed to come through qualification in three of their last six World Tour tournaments so wildcard for Vienna was most welcome.

But with a pass into the pool play on the shores of the Danube, the pair are determined to put their experience of battling through qualification to good use here.

“We feel that sometimes we have an advantage over some of the teams who don’t have to qualify because our mindset is different,” explains Behrens. “When you have to qualify your tournament starts 24 hours before the rest of the teams in the main draw. It makes a difference, certainly when we’re playing in the elimination after pool play. That extra pressure you felt during qualification really helps.”

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