One of beach volleyball's most successful athletes has called it a day. We spoke to Jonas Reckermann to find out more.
Jonas Reckermann has won it all. He’s a five-time German Master, has four European Masters to his name and in 2009 he won the World Title with his partner Julius Brink. They crowned their career with Olympic gold at London 2012 – a first for European beach volleyball. Last week, Jonas announced his retirement from the sport due to persistent back problems.
We caught up with this exceptional athlete to find out more about his decision.
First things first, Jonas: Let us congratulate you on your massive success. Was it a difficult decision to retire from professional beach volleyball?
Thank you! It was actually a very tough decision, but it was not taken over night, rather step by step. It all began in December at the MRI check-up [scans showed a cyst in his spinal canal that was pressing on a nerve in the lower back], which was already a shock in itself. During the past few weeks I’ve had many conversations, collecting opinions and advice, but my physical situation is so acute that there was no other option. It was not a pleasent experience having to inform Julius.
How did Julius react?
He was on my side. From the beginning he saw the x-ray scans and the diagnosis. He didn’t try to convince me otherwise. Quite the contrary: he made it clear that my decision was the right one.
How about your family’s reaction?
My wife knows how much the sport means to me. She would have been supportive if there was a chance of me continuing. We had already booked flights to the traning camp in South Africa together with my young son. If there’s a positive side to all of this, it is the chance to spend more time at home.
How will you fill your time now?
There are a couple of plans swirling around and I’ve had requests for things, but I will try to give myself time to digest this massive change. It wouldn’t be wise to begin another full-time job at the beginning of February, would it? [laughs]
What was the most outstanding moment of your career?
Wow, there were quite a few. I celebrated my first German title in 2001 just as excessively as the Olympic triumph in London, which was, of course, the most prominent victory for me. It’s the single most massive success you can have in our sport.
Would you change anything?
No, I would do it all over again, almost 100 per cent. There were a few small, wrong decisions, but they didn’t have a huge impact on my game as a whole. It couldn’t have been better.
How was your time with Julius Brink?
Super interesting and highly intense. One could say that I only arrived with Julius. At the beginning of my career, when I teamed up with Markus Dieckmann [2001-2005], it was me who was the rookie. After that, with Mischa Urbatzka [2007-2008] it was the other way round. With Julius [2009-2012], we were on one level. We worked with focus and precise intention – something I always dreamed about. I am very lucky that I enjoyed my best experiences with him.
Will you stay in contact with him?
Of course we’ll be in touch – on and off the beach volleyball court.
Will you still be present at the Red Bull Wings Academy?
The Red Bull Wings Academy is a project that is very dear to me. We've realised that many kids regard volleyball as a serious sport, on an equal level with football even. I’d love to help these youngsters gain access to our sport.
What will happen at the Red Bull Wings Academy in Hamburg?
The Red Bull Wings Academy has become an institution promoting new talent with kids learning directly from pros. Anyone who knows how to have fun in the sand with a volleyball can apply for our two-day session in Hamburg [March 16-17].