2018-04-13 03:46:00 CEST

From Vienna with love

Home is where the heart is for World Championship silver medalists Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst

Clemens with daughter Lilli at last season's World Championships in ViennaClemens with daughter Lilli at last season's World Championships in Vienna

They were the most endearing moments amid the madness of last year’s World Championships in Vienna.

As the raucous capacity crowd rejoiced after every one of home favorites Clemens Doppler and Alex Horst’s victories, the Austrian duo would rush to the side of the court and embrace their families.

For the two fathers, it was an extra special moment. A fairytale. The silver medalists were able to share arguably their greatest achievement of their 20-year beach volleyball careers so far in front of the people who mattered most.

Clemens’ four-year-old daughter Lilli was there to take it all in – and it’s something both father and daughter will never forget.

“It was unique to have Lilli, Bettina, my girlfriend, and all my family in the crowd at such a good tournament,” says Clemens. “When Lilli came onto the court after the games she really enjoyed 10,000 people clapping at her – she actually misses it and she is still asking when she can next go on the sand.

“After the games it was a lot of fun seeing her but she would never hug me – she always said I was too sweaty and too smelly! It was something very special to have her and my family there watching, but a lot of the time she was actually either asleep or going to the toilet, usually at crucial times in the games! So it was funny in that respect as she was missing the tournament of my life!”

Alex Horst holds aloft son Fabio on the Center Court in ViennaAlex Horst holds aloft son Fabio on the Center Court in Vienna

To be able to share such an emotional moment, not just a career highlight, meant the world to the 37-year-old as times like these do not come around too often.

That’s because the life of beach volleyball athletes often takes them away from loved ones for months at a time. Next week, Clemens and Alex will leave Vienna and head for China, for the four-star event in Xiamen.

“As Lilli grows older, the more difficult it becomes,” he says. “18 months ago, when I said I would be away for two weeks, she just said ‘okay’ and thought it’d be back tomorrow.

“Right now it’s already a lot of discussing when I leave. It’s not easy to go away for them or for me. But still, in winter we are home much more than other people are and that’s when we spend a lot of time together. I’m quite happy with the way of life and how we deal with it.”

Alex feels exactly the same. His children, daughter Alessa, five, and Fabio, four, also made appearances on the sand at the World Championships.

“The one thing for sure is that it’s definitely not getting easier,” says the 35-year-old. “We’re used to it but it’s still hard when you have children.

“It’s hard to say goodbye knowing you’re going to be away for two weeks. But we’re kind of used to it and so are the kids. We phone them every day – at least it’s a little bit easier these days than it was 10 years ago.”

Technology is helping the beach elite keep in touch when they’re away from home – but it will never replace the feeling of having your family with you all the time.

And that’s why Alex and Clemens believe their silver medal in Vienna was a golden one. Because home is where the heart is.

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