To start, here is a photo of Chaim's afro. Just take a second to appreciate this amazing hair do!
Scandinavia is expensive. I am sure you already new that but in all honesty it is the most expensive place on earth. Chaim and I stayed in the Qualification hotel which was supposed to be a deal and we wound up spending just over $100 each PER NIGHT!!! Unfortunately there is no way around it (the cheapest place was $120 a night and it was no better than a dumpster) so we maximized our food intake at breakfast! We made sure we went to breakfast as early as possible, ate as much as we could and then returned to bed for a quick digestion. We then would train and return to the hotel for the last few minutes of breakfast where we would eat again and then pack a few big sandwiches for lunch! All in all it was a fabulous program and it must have saved us close to $40 a day!
The tiny little city of Kristiansand is a delight and is situated right on the southern most tip of Norway. It is a gorgeous place with a tiny city centre that makes more noise at night than you could imagine for a town its size. We wound up getting caught in a beer garden one night and it was epic! The adults were having a BLAST dancing on tables and doing summersaults while a below average cover band rocked out their unfortunate renditions of famous international tunes. It was an enjoyable evening and truly exposed the Norwegians as fun outgoing people, after they have had a few!
It is a surprise the tournament is held there but with exponential oil money and a small population of people who love beach volley anything can happen. I swear every citizen volunteers for the event and security is air tight in a place with no hooligans or crime. The tournament site is lovely and takes place right on a harbour with plenty of swimming entries looking south to Denmark.
We were in the qualification tournament and ranked high enough that our match up was bound to be a top seed in the qualifier. Sure enough we drew Benjamin/Bruno of Brazil as our entry round but had to get through Greece to even think about Brazil. No matter the challenge we knew we had to play great ball to make it to the main draw so we sucked it up and thought one match at a time.
We faced Greece on centre court at 10 AM under a surprisingly powerful scandinavian sun. We connected on all fronts and with an effective serving and defensive plan and the ability to hold our sideout, we took the match in 2. There was a little scare in the second set when we lost 3 points in a row when we were leading 19-15 but we pulled it out when we push came to shove. Off to meed the Brazilians.
Benjamin and Bruno had just come off a few solid finishes at Grand Slams but were the 4th ranked Brazilian team in the world. Event though their point ranking was top 16, since there were already 3 brazilians in the main draw, they had to play country quota on Tuesday vs 2 lower ranked Brazilian team to earn the right to play in the qualifier and then possible the main draw! This is the way it goes for Brazil and we knew deep down after watching them the day before that this was our time to beat them.
The game happened on a side court but some dedicated Canadian fan's working in the oil industry in Norway were there with their flags and clappers! We started the match off quick and took a 12-9 lead. We kept that lead until 19-17 where we proceeded to let the other team back in the game and win 22-20. I don't know how to describe it other than when you are beating a team that is better than you on paper, you over think it. You think you have to change something when continuing what you were doing to get you there would suffice! Either way we lost too many points in a row and let the game slip out of reach. We played unreal until 19-17 and then didn't close, largely due to the fact that Bruno played amazing defence. The second set was strong until mid way through when they pulled ahead. We stopped earning points and they pulled ahead for a strong finish.
A frustrating match where we had control and momentum but we just weren't able to seal the deal. A learning experience for sure and it was hard not being really disappointed in losing to a higher ranked team. Sometimes you just know in your heart that it was possible to win (even against great odds) and this was one of those times.
We then chilled in the nice weather and hung out with the abundance of Canadian athletes who were there competing. We cheered on Marie and Annie as they pushed to a 9th place result! So much fun and I really enjoyed being a tiny part of their success!
Now off to Finland for the Otera FIVB Open in Aland.