Source: CEV. On Tuesday, an extended roster of the Austrian men’s national team convened for the first time since EuroVolley 2019. Newly appointed head coach Radovan Gacic will be working with a large group of players at the VIVA Sports Centre in Steinbrunn. It is the first such training camp for any indoor team sport in the country since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.
The training camp takes place in strict compliance with the government’s corona measures. The players have single rooms, keep a health diary and therefore have to measure fever twice a day. As soon as they arrived in Steinbrunn, they all underwent COVID-19 tests. The first summer training camp under Gacic kicked off on Wednesday after results of the tests were available.
The camp will last until June 30. Afterwards, team captain Peter Wohlfahrtstätter and Co. have two weeks off before preparing for the EuroVolley qualifiers scheduled for later this summer. Austria feature in a three-team pool along with Bulgaria and Israel.
Austrian Volleyball Federation (ÖVV) President Gernot Leitner: “2020 is a challenging year. Corona crisis, stagnation in sports … But now that everyone has undergone the tests, we can start working with the men’s national team at our exclusive Steinbrunn base. The big problem is that before the pandemic, no professional player had a three-month ‘ball break’ in his career. It is therefore a challenge to get back to competition level. The players and the new coaching staff now have enough time to get to know each other. The medium-term goal is to qualify for EuroVolley 2021. We expect to receive a confirmation of the dates and competition format anytime soon. After that, we can plan more in detail. In this first training phase, however, the main thing is to build the team. We of course hope that everyone is fit and we assume that everyone at home has done the exercises that we have sent their way in the past weeks / months. The body has to get used to the stress again.”
Peter Wohlfahrtstätter, middle blocker and captain: “After the long break, it feels good to see my teammates again. We are obviously happy that we can resume a more structured training routine.”
Setter Maximilian Thaller: “I have not played Volleyball for 90 days, since the last match with my club in Bulgaria was on March 11. At home, however, I trained every day and even built a small home gym. My teammates, I think, will have kept themselves similarly fit. Therefore, we are not starting from scratch. Playing in Bulgaria was extremely interesting. The country has a long Volleyball tradition, and the players are very well trained. I have gained some experience that will certainly be useful for the EuroVolley qualifying matches with Bulgaria. The next three weeks, we will be able to get to know the new coaching staff, to get together and to see how that works.”
Outside hitter Anton Lukas Menner: “After the end of the season in Germany, I went to Graz with my wife and child. I was lucky that home workout equipment was already there. Of course, I missed the ball and at some point, it gets boring at home. I am happy to be able to train with the boys again.”
Middle blocker Nicolai Grabmüller: “I have been working out at home for the past few months, I have done a lot of cycling, and most recently I was also in the strength room. Together with the plans we got, everything went pretty well. Now of course I am very happy that we are finally getting started again.”
Austria qualified for the last time for EuroVolley in early 2019, but failed to make it through the pool stage where they played co-hosts Belgium, Serbia, Germany, Spain and Slovakia in Brussels and Antwerp.