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2016-05-31 09:25:00 CET

More Than Sports - The Perfectionist

Why Swiss women are celebrating historical success

When Sebastian Beck was 24 years old he realized that his career as a beach volleyball player wasn’t developing in the desired direction.

The half-Swiss, half-German is a perfectionist who never does things by halves. So he decided to stop playing and turn his hand to coaching. And that move is maybe the best thing that could have happened to the Swiss Volleyball Federation, where Sebastian began to work as a coach.

Seven years later he is now the head coach of the Swiss women’s national teams, a team who will celebrate the biggest success of their history this summer as, for the first time ever, two women teams from Switzerland have qualified for the Olympic Games. Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Vergé-Dépré rank 11th in the provisional Olympic Ranking at the moment (4,640 points), while Nadine Zumkehr and Joana Heidrich sit in 13th place (4,620 points). “That’s a big thing for Swiss volleyball,” Nadine says.

Nadine Zumkehr (right) will play her second Olympics this summer. Credit: Samo VidicNadine Zumkehr (right) will play her second Olympics this summer. Credit: Samo Vidic

Worthwhile investments

This amazing achievement is linked to some changes that Sebastian initiated. When Nadine (31) played the Olympics 2012 with Simone Kuhn, all women’s teams had one coach: Sebastian Beck. He wanted to bring more expertise together, so he acquired former European Champion Christoph Dieckmann and Florian Karl from Germany. Then, in 2014, Lothar Linz joined the Swiss coaching staff. The German psychological coach had worked with Olympic Champions Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann until London 2012. “I received my share of trash talk,” Sebastian says when it comes to the knowledge he imported from Germany.

But the results show that this investment has been paying off for the Swiss. Joana and Nadine have been one of the early season success stories on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour. In Moscow they beat top seeds and reigning FIVB world champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas of Brazil. Before that, Heidrich and Zumkehr had posted four-straight top five finishes on the FIVB World Tour, highlighted by a gold medal in Russia (Sochi) and a third-place finish in China (Fuzhou). “It’s going well for us and we have a lot of fun on the court,” Nadine says.

European Championships at home

Until this season, every time Swiss claimed gold it was Nadine who stood on top of the podium. In Xiamen, Isabelle and Anouk won gold for the first time. “That’s something I am glad to deal with,” Nadine laughs. “It’s nice to see that our Swiss project is able to keep up with the rest of the world class teams,” she says.

Isabelle Forrer (left) and Anouk Vergé-Dépré celebrated their first ever FIVB-Gold this season. Credit: Samo VidicIsabelle Forrer (left) and Anouk Vergé-Dépré celebrated their first ever FIVB-Gold this season. Credit: Samo Vidic

Now she is looking forward to the European Championships in Biel, near to her hometown Frutigen. “That will be a special European Championship for me,” she says. The same applies for the Gstaad Major in July – at which the draw for the Olympic Games will also be made.

Since their success in Moscow, she and Joana are mathematically qualified for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s a comfortable situation. We can enjoy the European Championships in our homeland and the smart Major Hamburg without pressure.” The same applies to Isabelle and Anouk.

Sebastian Beck thinks that both teams are playing their best seasons right now. But that does not mean that the 33-year-old national coach is satisfied. “I think that will never happen,” he says. Because Sebastian is a perfectionist – and maybe that’s the reason for this Swiss success story.