2017-11-27 10:00:00 CEST
We are family
Norway and beach volleyball might not seem the perfect match, but one group in Scandinavia are working together in a very special way to achieve success.
Whisper it quietly but, in a tiny village in South West Norway, ironically named Sand, there’s a beach volleyball revolution being led by a family steeped in volleyball tradition.
The beach volleyball boom sprouting up so successfully in this small pocket of Scandinavia is the result of the hard work, dedication and ambition of the closely tied Mol and Berntsen families.
As a group, they call themselves the Beachvolley Vikings. It’s made up of four players – Anders Mol, his brother Hendrik, his cousin Mathias Berntsen and family friend Christian Sørum. The talented quartet, all aged between 20 and 23, are trained by the Mol brothers’ father, Kåre, and Hendrik’s father, Jetmund.
Completing the tight-knit family affair is Annette Berntsen, the chief organizer, and Merita Mol – Anders and Hendrik’s mother and Mathias’ aunt – who plays a key role in the behind-the-scenes as a mental coach and advisor. Back in 1996, when beach volleyball made its Olympic debut in Atlanta, Merita represented Norway on the beach – further enhancing the expertise and experience behind the Vikings’ team.
It’s often said that beach volleyball is one big family – but this team genuinely are. So much so, their bond on and off the sand has produced hugely encouraging results.
Last season, in his first season as a professional, Anders scooped the coveted FIVB Rookie of the Year award following a string of impressive performances on the World Tour, including two ninth-place finishes in the Majors in Gstaad and Poreč.
“There are good and bad things about being in a team made-up of family and friends,” explains the fresh-faced Mol, who together with cousin Mathias finished ninth in Poreč and with friend Christian ninth in Gstaad last season. “Being completely honest with each other is one of the good things. We always want to improve and help one another out with nobody else getting in the way.
“This means we push each other every day in the fitness room, supporting each other when we have bad days and giving feedback as to how we can do better.”
When you think of beach volleyball, you think of teams from Brazil, the USA and now, to certain extent, Germany. But Norway?
The team spirit of this group has helped these youngsters topple some of the biggest names in the sport. And it’s something Mol still can’t quite believe.
“It’s insane, we’ve watched YouTube videos of the big stars and we’re sitting down and having dinner with them,” continues Anders, a three-time European youth beach champion. “It’s strange to think that we’re the young rookies, even though we beaten some of them. It’s hard to realize how far we have come.
“It’s crazy to think we’ve taken down the likes of Samoilovs/Smedins (Latvia), Herrera/Gavira (Spain) and Liamin/Krasilnikov (World Championship bronze medalists from Russia) this year. We’re a bit star-struck before games but once we’re on the court and the other side of the net it’s a whole new game – we just want to beat them.”
These young, hungry and ambitious stars from are aiming for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 – and should they get there they don’t intent to be there just to make up the numbers. They want to win.
“We want to fight for medals at the next Olympics – but we won’t be able to get there alone,” says Mol. “We need each other. This is what we call the Viking mentality.
“Another great thing about us being such good friends is that we are always cheering for each other and wishing each other all the best. When a team has lost and is out of a tournament everyone is doing all they can to support those still left competing.
“And whenever a team does well in a tournament, we are all a big part of it – it’s a success for the team. That’s what we are, a team, not individuals.
“Of course being such good friends mean we travel the world exploring beautiful places together. This means we’re able to share these experiences together and for sure that makes us an even stronger team.”
So watch out world – as you read this, just take one second to think of the Beachvolley Vikings team sitting down around the family table and plotting the downfall of beach volleyball’s biggest names in 2018. You have been warned.