Sara Montagnolli about fair play and what makes Beach Volleyball so special
2013 CEV A1 Beach Volleyball European Championship Final presented by checkrobin.com
Klagenfurt, Austria, August 3, 2013. Sara Montagnolli is at home in Klagenfurt and for a very long time was Austria’s top Beach Volleyball player. After missing out on a spot for the 2012 Olympics in London, she retired from competitive sport and is working in Austria’s Beach Volleyball “Mecca” for host broadcaster ORF, following the Championship as closely as possible.
Together with Barbara Hansel, Montagnolli won silver at the European Championship two years ago in Kristiansand, Austria’s only medal in the competition before the Schwaiger sisters found their way to the final game here on Saturday morning. “I am happy for being here again but, even though it may sound strange, I do not miss the past times. I stopped playing by the time I was ready to move on in my life and I also know I was lucky for I had a long career and had the privilege to enjoy this stage. This tournament is something really remarkable for a small country like Austria where practically you have no real beaches” she says. “Before I retired I had a look around to figure out whether there was any player I could team up to compete with the world’s elite in this sport but since the perspectives did not look that good, I decided to stop and in the end I am convinced that this was the right decision for me”.
She nevertheless has got many memories coming back from the years she starred out there on centre court together with her partners. “Back in 2007 I finished fifth with Sabine Swoboda; that was very cool for an Austria team had never gone so far in the tournament before”. She then made the semi-finals twice together with Hansel and in 2009 was voted MVP of the FIVB Grand Slam. “That was the greatest moment of my career, especially for this happened here at home”.
Montagnolli’s charisma and sound social skills were extremely useful for she was chosen as players’ representative and did work for the good of her colleagues for quite many years. “It means you have some more responsibility on your shoulders than just go out there and play your game but I really liked it. I am very open and can easily liaise with people, so it was good to exploit these strengths to support the players. Sometimes you need to be very diplomatic but I was the one who was always looking around and trying to find solutions to maybe small problems keeping in mind that my priority was the good of the sport. This was a good way for me to work for Beach Volleyball since this sport has given so much to me that I somehow wanted and still want to give something back”.
This past June 28 CEV announced in Vienna the introduction of a special campaign under the slogan “Fair Play. Volleyball Way” re-enforcing the image and perception of Volleyball and Beach Volleyball across Europe as a clean and fair sport. “If you speak about fair play in Beach Volleyball, I think many would say that this comes quite naturally. Of course it has something to do with the fact that there is no physical contact and that it is up to you to control the ball and work out the best tactics to take the point. Beach Volleyball requires much more than outstanding physical skills; you see it clearly also from today’s matches: players have to find the right way to play their game adjusting it to the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents so this means you have to be physically strong and clever at the same time. It is fair because it is in your own hands to score and this does not depend on anyone else’s behaviour. But if you speak about fair play in Beach Volleyball, well, this has something to do also with the fact that once you join this group of players travelling around all together, you basically become of a member of what resembles a family-like community. There’s a lot of mutual respect and we are also able to accept that one day you are the one who has the upper hand in the end but one week later maybe you are the loser because on that day your opponent was just stronger and played better than you did. In my case this applied especially to my rivalry with Laura Ludwig; we played each other many times but we always were ready to accept a defeat for we did respect each other and did not want to search for excuses. This is also fair play and I think that this is what makes Beach Volleyball so special and what our sport stands out for”.
Sara feels comfortable with her second life but will surely cheer on the Schwaiger sisters as they try to complete their memorable campaign with what would be a historic gold medal for Austria. “They played superbly in their semi-final but the Spaniards have no pressure and will simply enjoy the moment. I think we have got all pre-conditions for a world-class final to round out this European Championship the way it deserves”.