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19/05/2020 13:00
Watch our ‘Unscripted’ chats starring Antoine Brizard and Clemens Doppler!

Luxembourg, May 19, 2020. While we all impatiently wait for the resumption of competitive sport, these times of lockdown have offered us the opportunity to catch up with some of the real stars of the game. This time, we chat with rising star Antoine Brizard – who helped France qualify for the Tokyo Olympics back in January in Berlin – and, on the other end of the spectrum, with Austrian Beach Volleyball icon Clemens Doppler, who has been performing at the highest level for some 20 years already!

Antoine Brizard played a truly pivotal role when France qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics earlier this year. However, the setter, who has spent the last three years in Poland, humbly plays it down. “I do not think that without my contribution, we would not have made it to Tokyo. On the other hand, I obviously acknowledge that when I had the chance to join the action, I played very well,” he said, admitting that watching footage from the drama-filled semi-final with Slovenia still gives him goose bumps. Brizard aced three times in a row in that match where Les Bleus came back from two sets down to produce a sensational tiebreak victory. “Qualifying for the Olympics was the result of a collective effort. We worked together for it as a group of close friends and it was special to share this moment with Yacine Louati, with whom I have been playing since we were very young; we are like brothers.”

Due to the abrupt end of the competitive season, Brizard returned to his home near Bordeaux before the ‘big matches’ in the Polish national league were still to come. “Obviously, I regret the way the season ended, but I feel very lucky and privileged, because I am safe and sound, whilst many other people have been or are fighting against the virus,” he said.

A die-hard fan of Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer, Brizard reveals playing before the passionate Polish fans is an experience that he truly relishes: “The arenas are always full even when we play some of the lower-ranked teams. The fans have been very warm and welcoming and it has been a privilege to play alongside some of the best players in the world, including Bartosz Kurek,” he continues.

Brizard was certainly a game-changer at the Olympic qualifier earlier this year in Berlin. Many may wonder if this has had any impact on his interaction with Benjamin Toniutti, who has been the starting setter and captain of the French national team for a number of years. “Actually, we have gotten closer and closer,” Brizard reveals. “He has always been very supportive and he is an advocate of the philosophy that a team needs the contribution of each member in order to achieve success.”

Make sure you watch the full chat with Dave Rogers, to know whom Antoine regards as the best setter in the world and discover whom he is most afraid of playing against!

Unscripted with... Clemens Doppler

Clemens Doppler truly is a Beach Volleyball icon, with a career that has been now lasting for more than 20 years. Speaking from his Vienna home, Doppler emphasised that the coronavirus pandemic has not changed his ultimate goal to make a fourth straight appearance at the Olympic Games. “This is the time of the year where Beach Volleyball teams are usually travelling around the world and we were all very much looking forward to the Olympic season, including many other highlights such as EuroBeachVolley and our Major event in Vienna,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, but I am working out at home in order to stay active and be ready for when competition resumes. The Olympics are now due to take place in 2021; as such, the achievement of this major goal has not changed.”

A two-time European champion, Doppler has undergone as many as four major knee surgeries throughout his career. “These injuries have kept me away from the courts for almost four seasons, but they have not prevented me from coming back and have not ended my career, so the coronavirus will not be able to do that either, I want to be the master of my own destiny,” he says. “Of course, I have started to draft plans for my life after retirement, as I am currently studying sports business administration online and I wish to remain associated with the sport. However, it is still too premature to talk about that.”

Doppler hopes to qualify for Tokyo since the Olympics are the ultimate dream of any athlete. “I have been privileged to be at the Olympics three times already and my most memorable moment came in Rio when we beat eventual gold medal winners Alison/Bruno before 12,000 crazy Brazilian fans. It is for those moments that you work hard in the winter, as well as for those we have lived when playing before our own fans in Klagenfurt or Vienna,” he continues.

In this chat, Clemens revealed he played Snow Volleyball some 20 years ago and he is confident that the sport can grow in future. “Obviously, the organisers focus a lot on the sport, but I think Beach Volleyball, and Snow Volleyball can do the same, helps people find a way to enjoy themselves while watching the action. Therefore, I cannot wait for ‘normal life’ to be back and to compete again.”

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