Thanks to crowdfunding and the perfect training course, their dream became a reality. Joby van Langendonk (20) and Kian Verkateren (19) were crowned yesterday – much to their surprise – as U21 beach volleyball world champions. “I think we still can’t believe it,” the latter says of the unique trip.
“It’s really crazy! I still haven’t caught up with him.”
As Kian Verkaterin’s smartphone resists the urge to explode, the newly crowned world champion tries to take in all the congratulations the next day.
“I also received some videos from fans who watched it on the big screen. Very nice, because it was a surprise for us.”
The word “surprise” is the perfect description of Belgium’s performance at the World Cup in Thailand.
Friends, family and teammates gathered to watch the final on the big screen.
Because the journey to Southeast Asia was not easy for Vercauteren and Van Langendonk.
The cost of the trip was 7,000 euros, of which the Volleyball Federation paid 2,000 euros. Finding the remaining funds as physical therapy and chemistry students turns out to be no easy task.
So the duo created an online crowdfunding campaign under the slogan “Every euro brings us two kilometers closer to the World Cup.” success.
Especially when friends, family and clubs also contribute with nail tapping games, candy sales and other fundraising activities.
“It’s a relief,” laughs the 19-year-old cornerback from Vamos Stekine/Sint-Gillis-Oas. “Our mothers didn’t really want to make up the rest.”
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A few weeks later, the two young men, Vercauteren (19 years old) and Van Langendonck (20 years old), set foot on Thai soil. Their goal: to get a place among the top 8 duos in the world.
Although the Belgians quickly feel that the draw is in their favour. “We didn’t play the toughest countries in the group stage, so that was a great introduction. Even then we avoided the best players.”
But anyone who wants to become a world champion will eventually face the best. Favorite France awaited their northern neighbors in the semi-finals.
“We were realistic then we thought we were going to play a bronze medal match,” Vercauteren looks back on the unbeaten run.
Everyone in the volleyball world will know us now.
It was only when the ax was given to the first favorite that the confidence was fully there.
He continues: “If it is possible to win the world title, then why not, right?” The gold medal came a few hours later after an exciting match against Austria again.
“I don’t think we can believe it yet. It’s only starting to creep up on us now. Everyone in the volleyball world will know us now.”
“Unfortunately, there is no prize money,” Vercauteren smiles. “We have a gold medal, that’s not bad!”
“I don’t know how much it is worth, but they will never take this unforgettable achievement from us.”
Jobe van Langendonck and Kian Verkaterin.
According to the beach volleyball duo, there is also a lesson in this unforgettable performance.
“Successful crowdfunding indicates that beach volleyball is on the rise. However, confidence in our chances has remained somewhat weak.”
Van Langendonk and Verkaterin have trained extensively with coach Rick Donkers on indoor courts in Leuven and the Netherlands in recent weeks. However, opinions remained skeptical about the Belgian beach volleyball project.
“The fact that we have now proven the opposite helps greatly in promoting our sport,” says Vercauteren. “We can build on this to go even higher in the future.”
But first, we’ll talk about the young duo’s programme: a 24-hour trip to Belgium, where they have to continue their learning behind school desks for a week.
“Okay, I’ll take it,” the world champion concludes with a wink.
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