Norway’s rising Beach Volleyball stars set sights on Tokyo 2020 Olympics
2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup - Final
Stavanger, Norway, June 25, 2016. Belgium dealt a big blow to Norway’s Beach Volleyball family on Friday afternoon when Tom van Walle and Dries Koekelkoren produced two straight wins in their quarter-final matches with the home teams, and as a result Norway won’t have any Beach Volleyball team competing at the Olympics for the first time since Beach Volleyball was added to the programme in 1996. Despite this major setback, the future looks bright for Beach Volleyball in the Scandinavian country, all the more after Anders Berntsen Mol and Aleksander Sandlie Sørum won gold last week at the CEV U20 Beach Volleyball European Championship in Antalya, Turkey.
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Mol and Sørum visited Stavanger on Saturday and received a tribute by the sell-out crowd in attendance shortly before the start of the women’s ‘grand finale’ between Ukraine and the Netherlands. They both come from Volleyball families – and it really looks like Beach Volleyball is a family affair in Norway.
Anders Berntsen Mol is the son of Merita Berntsen, who played for Norway at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta finishing in ninth place with partner Ragni Hestad. His father Kare is a former Volleyball player, with as many as 96 caps with the Norwegian national team and attended as many as three Olympics as a member of the Norwegian coaching staff. Anders’ elder brother, Hendrik Nikolai, is currently attending college at University of Hawaii, and won silver at the 2013 U22 European Championship with Lars Fredrik Tvinde. If this is not enough, his regular partner is his cousin, Mathias Berntsen, with whom he won gold at last year’s U20 European Championship in Larnaka, Cyprus.
As for Sørum, he is the younger brother to Christian, who played for Norway at the Continental Cup Final in Stavanger and won U22 European gold in 2014 in Fethiye, Turkey.
“Well, it sounds like our background kind of compelled us to start playing Volleyball and Beach Volleyball, and our parents definitely had an impact on me and Hendrik’s decision to take up this sport. However, in the end it was mostly our wish and we are happy with the decision we made,” the smart and talkative Anders Berntsen Mol said.
Impressively enough, Anders and Aleksander had only practiced together for three weeks before travelling to Turkey for the U20 European Championship. “My cousin is no longer eligible to play in the U20 age group, so we teamed up specifically for this tournament and even though we spent only three weeks together, it looks like we made it work,” Mol added. “I will now resume playing with my cousin and our ultimate goal is to qualify and play for Norway at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”
The young Anders hopes to be able - one day - to make up for the major disappointment that Norway suffered on Friday in Stavanger. “It’s indeed really sad that for the first time ever there won’t be any Norwegian team playing at the Olympics. However, we have a group of young, talented, promising players, and we can start from here to build our programme for the future and make sure that Norway will be back in four years’ time,” he said.
Could Anders and his elder brother Hendrik Nikolai team up one day? “I think it’s a pretty exciting perspective and it would be an interesting partnership, but we first would have to find a compromise since we are both blockers. Right now my focus is on the project I have designed with my cousin, what we call the ‘Beach Vikings’. At this stage we are the only players on this programme but my wish is to be able to extend it to another two teams, to account for six players in total who will work together and if necessary we could mix the pairs up in order to facilitate our development and find out the best combination, again knowing that our ultimate goal is to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” Mol continued.
For somebody who is still only 18, Anders has an impressively clear mind-set: “We most probably will have to work and train also abroad and we want to use the connections which are already in place in such countries as Brazil, Spain, Poland or Latvia. We are young, but very ambitious and I am hoping that in four years I will be one of the players who will represent Norway at the Olympics.”
Watch out because the Beach Vikings are coming up strong…