In a gripping showdown at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships in Roi-Et, Thailand, Belgium etched its name into the annals of history, securing a gold medal for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Joppe Van Langendonck and Kyan Vercauteren, facing the daunting challenge of an experienced Austrian pair, emerged victorious in a thrilling three-set match that kept spectators on the edge of their seats.
The pressure on the young Belgians was palpable as they went up against Austria’s Timo Hammarberg and Tim Berger, a seasoned duo with confidence radiating from their every move.
Yet, the patience and composure displayed by Van Langendonck and Vercauteren transformed the match, leaving no doubt about their claim to the gold medal.
The final score of 2-1 (18-21, 21-19, 15-13) reflected the tenacity and skill that propelled the Belgians to victory.
Van Langendonck, visibly pleased, exclaimed, “We are world champions!” He reflected on their unique journey to the top, “We are not super used to the sand, as we’re both indoor players.
“It’s strange now to be world champions because we only had two months to prepare. It’s crazy that we won. We never achieved anything like this, so it’s super nice,” says Langendonck.
The win carries profound implications for the duo, as Van Langendonck expressed hope that their success would attract investment in their burgeoning beach volleyball careers. “This win will help people to look into investing in us because maybe we could be the next ones in our country for this sport,” he asserted.
The journey to the gold was not without its challenges. Hammarberg and Berger executed a flawless side-out game in the first set, establishing an early lead.
Despite the Belgians’ efforts to mount a comeback, a service blunder handed the set to the Austrians at 21-18.
Undeterred, Van Langendonck and Vercauteren showcased great hustle at the net in the second set, turning the tide in their favour with a 21-19 win.
The third set was a nail-biter, with both teams vying for the championship. A well-timed block gave the Belgians a narrow advantage, but Berger’s spike levelled the score.
A clever drop shot by the Belgians confused the Austrian block, and a precise side-out pass paved the way for a gold medal victory at 15-13.
Vercauteren reflected on the tough match, saying, “It was very tough. We lost the first set and were thinking if it was possible to win. But we kept fighting, and then we won the second set. Then we thought at that point, maybe we can be world champions.”
The semifinal encounter against top-ranked duo Arthur Canet and Téo Rotar of France was another testament to the Belgians’ resilience.
After dropping the opening set 21-17, Van Langendonck and Vercauteren rallied back with a 21-19 win in the second frame and secured a spirited victory in the final set at 15-11.
Canet and Rotar faced Pedro and Henrique of Brazil in the bronze medal match. Despite claiming the first set 21-16, the French duo couldn’t maintain momentum as the Brazilians fought back, winning the second frame 21-19.
However, Canet and Rotar regrouped in the third set, securing a 15-12 win and the bronze medal.
The victory marks the second time a French team has secured the U21 Men’s World Championship bronze medal, following Romain Di Giantommaso and Maxime Thiercy’s triumph in 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.
In a tournament filled with twists, turns, and exceptional performances, Belgium’s historic gold medal win stands out as a testament to the team’s skill, determination, and ability to overcome the odds.
As Van Langendonck aptly put it, “We are world champions,” and their remarkable journey is one that will be remembered in the realms of beach volleyball history.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members