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Mol/Sørum: “King of the Court is here to stay”

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Beach volleyball royalty Anders Mol and Christian Sørum have no doubt in their minds, King of the Court is a concept that’s here to stay and that will grow even further. The Olympic champions of Tokyo sat down with us to discuss the game, their wonderful 2021 season, the upcoming 2022 season and they dream about teaming up internationally if their regular partner would be unavailable for King of the Court.

Over the seasons King of the Court was played, Anders and Christian, the Beach Volley Vikings, managed to almost be crowned on three occasions. In 2018 they were runners-up in Antwerp and Waikiki, in 2020 they got the silver in Utrecht during the first-ever tournament to be held in a Covid-19 bubble, including playing in a state-of-the-art corona proof stadium. They would love to take just one step higher on the podium and be crowned as Kings of the Court. But, as Anders puts it: “It’s difficult, there’s always going to be this kind of luck involved in King of the Court. Or unluck, because when you’re unlucky, you don’t even have the chance to be on the king’s side. But that’s also what makes it interesting, you never know what’s going to happen in the round.”

Christian adds his view: “It’s a very interesting game. You can feel so good in Round 1, you can easily have the most points. But the next round you can be eliminated. You really have to be focused all the time to be ready for your chance. Use your opportunities well. It’s a lot of fun to play, but if you lose it’s probably the worst feeling ever, because you have to sit and watch the others play, having fun playing the sport you like. So, you then must practice more and be better.”

2021 season
Last year Anders and Christian were unable to play King of the Court, because of the demanding challenges they faced with the Olympics and the European Championships played within a three-week-period. They won both tournaments. At the Olympics they regained their confidence after a period of doubt on the World Tour. From the quarterfinals on they were their confident selves again and moved on to winning their maiden Olympic title.

In EuroBeachVolley in Vienna they had an unprecedented achievement, they were the first team to ever win a fourth (consecutive) European title, despite being pushed to the limit in almost all matches. In the final they overcame a 11-8 deficit in the third set against Dutch Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot by digging deep within themselves and pushing just a little harder than their opponents.

“I think we just put on an extra modus, an extra motor”, Anders explains. “We can dig really deep and find extra energy. Christian makes one extra run in defense, I jump just a little higher in block, which makes me push over a little further, and get the final block. When we are under pressure and we really need a point, we can always find that extra power within ourselves. Only Vikings have it, it’s the Viking mentality”, Anders says with a big smile.

His teammate adds: “I think we have good experience by playing good tight matches. When you win, you kind of have that confidence in the next match also. We have a lot of good tactics, good plans. We have more strength to play on, we know things to do in the end. We get confident, where others may get less confident.”

Rest
When the fourth title was in the bag, it was time for resting. The pair skipped the King of the Court tournaments of Hamburg and Utrecht and played just one event in the remainder of 2021. They won the World Tour Finals, putting an extra golden crown on their season. After the final on the 10th of October Anders and Christian didn’t touch a volleyball for three months. It was a necessary break, because the years of being the team-to-beat had taken a toll.

Anders: “It has been three, four long years, with a lot of tournaments. We have been in a tunnel towards Tokyo for a long time and we needed to get out of that bubble and celebrate with everyone that was part of it. For sure also our bodies needed it. Christian started to feel his shoulder at the end of the year. I had some trouble with my hip and back the last year, so I think it was very necessary for us to not play volleyball and think about something else.”

2022 season
They have started the new season not being the world’s number ones anymore. Anders and Christian are in 11th place at the time of writing of this article. “We don’t care that much about the ranking”, Christian explains. “Of course, you want to be number one, but when World Tour Finals and the Olympics don’t give points and the European Championships don’t give that many points, it’s tough to keep your position. I think there are a lot of great teams, for many years now.”

Christian continues: “We must be at our best level to win matches. Especially when we play the Pro Elite 16. We almost got eliminated at the pool phase in Rosarito, but we managed to get a bronze. That says something about our level. It’s just so much fun entering a tournament, we have to play our best to win games. That also improves all the players.”

Mol/Sørum bronze at Rosarito
Mol/Sørum bronze at Rosarito ©VolleybalWorld

World Championships
The biggest goal of the season for the Beach Volley Vikings is to win their first World Championship. In 2019 they got the bronze. The postponed World Championships from 2021 will be played June 10-19 in Rome, Italy. Beforehand they will play the Elite 16 tournaments of Ostrava and Jurmala.

“That’s three tournaments in a row for us”, Anders mentions. “From then on, we haven’t really planned yet. We want to play all the Elite tournaments. It would be fun to play King of the Court in Utrecht for example, where we have played a couple times before. But we can’t promise anything, because it depends on our bodies, how we feel mentally.”

King of the Court 2022
Anders and Christian would like to play in King of the Court, because that’s also one title that’s missing in their careers. With three second-place finishes King of the Court does seem to suit their game. Anders: “Regular beach volleyball suits us better though. Because then we play against one team, and we can really have tactics against one team, instead of having tactics against four to two teams. It’s for sure different. But it’s so fun with the interactions between the players playing on one court, it feels like we’re all just having fun and training. That’s the best thing about King of the Court, that it’s really fun for all of the players.”

“Here to stay”
“It’s definitely a concept that’s here to stay, here to grow even more”, Anders continues. “I have also heard a lot of feedback from people who are loving it. Love watching it, because it’s so intense, so much action going on. It’s five different teams, so it also makes it interesting for tv. We’re excited to see where King of the Court is going to be in ten years. It’s going to be a part of the circuit.”

Although they didn’t play King of the Court in 2021, they did watch it. “Sweden is a King of the Court machine”, Anders compliments David Åhman and Jonatan Hellvig. “They won Utrecht and also showed it in Doha. They really fit into that concept of playing.”

“We should invite Oleg Plotnytskyi”
One of the benefits of King of the Court is that it’s possible to play with a partner from a different country. When asked who they would like to play with if their regular partner is unavailable, they start dreaming. Christian: “There’s many players that are fun to play with. Everything from Oleg (Stoyanovskiy), the tallest guy on tour almost. Maybe it will also be fun to play with a defender, so I could block.”

Anders: “Yes, there’s many players. It sure would be fun to play with Taylor Crabb. To have him back there. It will also be fun to play with the Swedish boys, with the jump setting. Christian can’t do it, so I can do some jump setting with the Swedish boys. It will also be fun to play with Oleg Plotnytskyi, the indoor player. He used to play beach volleyball. Maybe we should invite him to play King of the Court. That’s possible right?”, he asks with hope in his voice.