2016-01-28 12:24:00 CEST
European Champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst have had some tough times in the past year or two, but now the pair is able to look ahead to the Rio Olympics with a bit more confidence.
When Walkenhorst suffered a knee injury a few months ago, it looked as though Rio might just be a distant dream. On top of that, the 25-year-old also had to overcome 11 months away from the court when she had mononucleosis.
"It was a very hard blow, mainly because it happened before the season started in 2015 after we had had some really amazing preparation,” Ludwig told German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost. “Sometimes I found myself not knowing what to do, and was no longer the cheerful person I usually am. Overnight, the dream of the Olympics was in question. It was a difficult time.”
But the pair was able to storm back in the latter half of 2015, securing a place in the Top 10 in the final 11 tournaments on the World Tour and winning the Yokohama Grand Slam.
Officially, the qualification for the Rio Games runs until June 13, less than a month before the Olympic tournament, but Ludwig is already looking ahead to Copacabana Beach.
"I see a beautiful and crowded arena in Copacabana, with samba and high-level beach volleyball,” she said. “I feel totally fine, very excited and very happy to be part of this moment. There is still a long way to go, but we can feel it.”
Behind the scenes, the athletes have an important ally: Jürgen Wagner, the coach who took Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann to Olympic gold at London 2012.
“Jürgen is a calming influence who has vision and able to convey how it is possible to achieve your goals,” Ludwig said. “I've always been on the edge, but with him I learned to have greater emotional control.”