2017-11-28 10:00:00 CEST
Just good friends
Having know each other since they were friends at school, Polish beach volleyball stars Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak are now showing why it’s good to stick together on the sand.
It’s May 1992 in Poland, and two boys from two different towns are born 11 days apart. Fast forward 25 years, and Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak have become one of the most feared beach volleyball teams in the world.
In a sport where partnerships break-ups are an annual talking point every fall, Kantor and Losiak are a tandem that buck that trend. Ever since they first stepped foot on the sand together back in 2009 as 17-year-olds, they have stuck together.
Over the past decade, the pair have well and truly put Polish beach volleyball on the map. Having enjoyed a wealth of success in youth careers – that saw them win European and World youth championship gold – Piotr and Bartosz are now fulfilling their precocious potential.
An appearance on the coveted Copacabana at the Rio Olympic Games last year was just the tip of the iceberg. Currently ranked the sixth-best team in the world, they have won 19 medals on the international beach tour, including a sought-after cowbell and silver medal in Switzerland at the Gstaad Major in July this year.
They’ve come a long, long way since they met at school and started playing for the Silesian federation in their native Poland.
“We understood each other well and at the end of a volleyball camp, I proposed an idea,” Kantor, the older of the two, explains. “We were in the same high school and lived in one room.”
As any beach volleyball player will tell you, living in one space together for months at a time on tour during the hectic summer season can be stressful.
After 10 years in their own company, however, these old school friends realize it’s just as important to give each other space away from the beach.
“Now we are older, we have different interests and time when we do not have training or tournaments we try to spend alone,” says Kantor. “On the court we can work together without fighting.
“We like each other, but we do not spend a lot of time privately so we do not get tired of ourselves.”
You could argue the tandem have found the perfect on and off court harmony and that reflects in their performances on the sand. Their first gold medal on the senior beach volleyball tour, in March 2016, came in Rio de Janeiro and couldn’t have come against more apt opponents. Facing Brazilians Evandro Gonçalves Oliveira Junior and Pedro Salgado Solberg, Kantor and Losiak announced to the beach world that these two Polish pals are mean business.
The one pertinent point from this one landmark triumph is that Brazilian Solberg has, over the same period of 10 years, partnered no less than 11 different players, during which time Kantor and Losiak have stayed as one.
“We have good results and we do get on well on the court,” continues Piotr. “Our characters are complementary – we have no reason to change anything.”
Of course, as Brazilian teams consistently show on the World Tour, new partnerships can click immediately. Just ask Evandro and Andre Loyola Stein, who clinched the World Championship title in Vienna in their debut season together this summer.
But for Kantor and Losiak, they are happy sticking together – and are improving with every single moment they spent together on the sand.
“We have no reason to quarrel on and of the sand. I think that is our strong point and it’s helped us achieve more and more in every single tournament,” adds Piotr.
Their electric, fast-paced brand of beach volleyball – sprinkled with elements from the indoor game – have made the Poles of the most exciting and entertaining teams to watch on the sand.
“Being a team you need to respect each other,” are Kantor’s final words. “It seems to me that you do not always need to be friends.
“In my opinion the most important aspect is to co-operate and share that common goal on the court.”
Despite having been in each other’s pockets for 10 years, these Poles are by no means two peas in a pod. However, their on-court intuition, forged at a young age on the sand courts in Poland and strengthened from playing thousands of sets matches together during that time, gives them a bond like no other beach volleyball team on the current men’s tour.
Having won Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 World Championships titles together, it surely won’t be long before these boyhood friends are celebrating more golden moments together.