2018-04-16 11:00:00 CEST
2016 Olympic champion Laura Ludwig explains how her need for more success in beach volleyball delayed her decision to start a family…
It’s no fluke and no coincidence that reigning Olympic champion Laura Ludwig has risen to fast become one of beach volleyball’s all-time greats.
Like in any sport, to be a top-class player you need more than just raw ability and talent. Sports stars often sight mental attributes such as drive and dedication and a never-say-die attitude as the extra qualities you need to stand out from the rest.
Together with teammate Kira Walkenhorst, Ludwig’s pursuit of perfection has been unrelenting
Olympian and World Champion Laura Ludwig is taking a break to focus on her pregnancy. Here is how she plans to handle her sport career and growing family. More #BeachFamily: https://youtu.be/pHNkalEuvoY https://beachmajorseries.com/family
Two weeks before their memorable 2016 triumph in Rio, the duo traveled to Austria for the Beach Volleyball Major Series event in Klagenfurt. Many of their Copacabana competitors stayed away from the event on the banks of Lake Wörthersee. The Germans’ obsession with winning took over. They were merciless. They claimed gold, raced to Rio and subsequently took the Olympic title there, snatching the prize under the noses of the Brazilians in their own backyard.
That kind of hell-bent determination to be the best is the reason why Laura is skipping the 2018 season. In June, she and partner Morph Bowes, head coach of the German women’s national teams, are expecting to welcome a baby boy in to the world.
“The original plan was to start a family after the Olympics,” explains the 32-year-old. “We felt that would probably be the best time, but after winning in Rio we felt amazing. There was no way I wanted to stop. We were on top of the world and we wanted to stay there. My first thought was wanting to win more tournaments.
“Morph and I agreed we’d go for the World Championships and then try for a baby.”
Last year, Vienna melted in scorching summer temperatures. It was 60 degrees Celsius courtside but Laura and Kira never wilted. They won all eight matches and dropped two sets on their way to adding the piece of silverware missing from their jam-packed trophy cabinet.
As decisions go, it couldn’t have gone any better for Laura.
“I just love beach volleyball,” she says. “I still wanted to practice, to compete, to win. I wanted another challenge in my life and my priorities changed in my head. I still wanted a baby but I wanted the World Championship title too. We discussed it in the team and agreed after 2017 we’d take 2018 off. With Kira having surgery too, the timing was just right. We’d done a lot of media work and suffered a lot of injuries. This was the time.”
Everything has fallen into place perfectly for the Olympic and World Champions. But how does it feel for a player as resolute as Ludwig, who has to face up to the fact she can’t compete? The fact our interview is taking place in Florida during the Fort Lauderdale Major tells its own story.
“I’m spying on the teams to see what they’re up to,” laughs Laura. When she comes to beach volleyball she isn’t joking. “For sure I’ll be sitting at home for a while on the touch but I’ll be keeping an eye on our opponents.
“Watching the teams practice drives me crazy. I could watch them practice all day. But, for once, it’s quite relaxing. There’s nothing to organize. No teams to ask to train with and no pressures that come with competing in a tournament. It feels cool and I like it, but I know after a while I’ll be biting my fingernails and want to be competing.”
Starting a family and not being on the beach is a new experience for Ludwig. She is still maintaining high levels of fitness to give herself the best chance of returning to the sand in shape after giving birth. Her coach wouldn’t allow it at any rate. “I’m sure he doesn’t realize I’m still pregnant!” she jokes once more.
The bubbly Berliner will be in good company on the beach. Parenthood is part and parcel of life on the World Tour. She’s already received plenty of advice from mothers on the circuit.
Laura is happy to keep an open mind about juggling motherhood with the life of a Olympic champion. But make no mistake, although she will soon have a baby boy to after, dreams of back-to-back Olympic titles are never far away in her consciousness.
“When I was younger I thought if I ever had kids I definitely wouldn’t go back on tour,” she explains. “I thought I’d just want to be with my family if the time came. Now beach volleyball is what I love so I don’t want to quit because I have to.
“We’ll take our time to start with but I’m hoping he can give me more energy on court, rather than him taking it. There’ll always be people happy to help out and well, it helps having a father on the tour too.”
The hectic life of a beach volleyball player is often seen as a glamorous, jet set one. It’s anything but. For Laura, she’s now looking forward to putting her feet up and spending more time with what matters most: family. Her brother’s girlfriend is also expecting this summer. It promises to be a special time for the Ludwigs.
“For the first time in a while I’ll be able to have some time off and enjoy home time,” she says, smiling. “I’ve already organized a long weekend away. My parents have a caravan on the north German coast near a town called Zinnowitz.
“Usually we’re not allowed to be away from beach volleyball for more than 48 hours. It’s not good for hand-to-eye coordination according to our coach – but there will be a time when I just won’t be able to…”