The United States and Brazil have won gold in every men’s or women’s beach volleyball tournament. Few would have put money on Germany beating both countries to the top step of the podium in the competition at London 2012 – but Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann did just that.
They were rocking the sport’s two superpowers with a stunning three-set victory over Brazil in the final.
The powerful pairing pulled off their famous victory in front of 15,000 delirious spectators at Horse Guards Parade. It was a significant win not just for Germany, but also for European teams, so often in the shadow of their transatlantic rivals.
In fact it was a breakthrough tournament for the continent, with Brink and Reckermann one of three European duos to reach the semi-finals. Latvia went on to take third place and the Netherlands finished fourth.
And though the German pair had an age advantage over Brazilian stars Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego, there was no taking away from their triumph in one of the Games’ most popular sports – staged with a dash of irreverent humour by organisers.
Reckermann said afterwards: ‘It’s unbelievable – they have been the best team for the last few years and Emanuel is a living legend, but we knew we had a chance.
‘It’s great for European beach volleyball. It’s great that we were the ones who won the gold. I hope it will bring up our sport in Europe.’
Brink, 30, won gold at the 2006 European Beach Volleyball Championships in The Hague, Netherlands, and took part in the Olympic Games in 2008 before pairing up with Reckermann the following year.
For his part Reckermann, 33, had represented Germany at the 2004 Games in Athens, where he finished in ninth place with partner Markus Dieckmann, and had also racked up two European Beach Volleyball Championship wins, in 2002 and 2004.
But as a team the Cologne pair has been unstoppable, winning four Fédération Internationale de Volleyball competitions – including three consecutive Grand Slams – and the German Masters of the CEV European Championship Tour.
Since their now-legendary victory in London, the dynamic duo have become stars in their homeland – hardly surprising given that more than nine million Germans watched the final live on television.
A stunned Reckermann said: ‘I could not even imagine that such a fuss was possible in beach volleyball.’
Though they have committed to keeping their double act together until 2014, Brink and Reckermann are for now silent on whether they’ll be in Rio in 2016. But legions of new European fans attracted to the sport will surely be hoping for a rerun of the London final at the Copacabana Stadium.