Phil Dalhausser stands 2.06m tall, but it’s more than just his towering height that makes him such a dominant beach volleyball player. He’s a serving specialist and one of the best blockers in the game. After winning Olympic gold in 2008, he has proven he has what it takes to be the best in the world.
Dalhausser was born in Switzerland to a Swiss mother and German father. His family relocated to the US when he was a baby, eventually settling in Florida.
When he was a senior in high school, Phil – who was already significantly taller than everyone in his class – joined the volleyball team. “Everything came naturally to me,” he says.
In college at the University of Central Florida, Phil played club volleyball and was named MVP. He says he spent more time on the courts than he did in class. “Once I started playing, I became obsessed with it,” he says. “It’s all I ever wanted to do.”
He debuted on the AVP tour – the domestic beach volleyball circuit in the US – with partner Nick Lucena in 2003. But it wasn’t until 2006, after partnering with Todd Rogers – already an 11-year veteran of the sport and a collegiate volleyball coach – that Phil had his breakout year and established himself as a player to watch.
Phil and Todd became the AVP Tour champions in 2007 and that same year, they became the first Americans to win the FIVB World Championships, held in Gstaad, Switzerland. “World Championships are a big deal and that win was awesome on all levels,” Phil says. “Plus, it was in Switzerland, where I was born, so a lot of my family was there to watch.”
During their seven-year partnership, Phil and Todd dominated international competition, smashing the record for most consecutive wins on the FIVB tour with 40 straight victories. Phil was named Best Offensive Player from 2005 to 2009 and was named Male Athlete of the Year four times by USA Volleyball.
Their success reached its pinnacle at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where Phil’s five blocks in the third set of the finals helped crown him Most Outstanding Player and earned them the gold medal. The announcer for the AVP Tour at the time bestowed a couple of nicknames on Phil: “The Thin Beast,” and after his win in China, “The Beijing Beast.”
“All of the hard work we put in came to fruition at the Beijing Olympics,” Phil says. “Winning gold was like the best feeling you can image, times a million.”
In 2010, Phil and Todd won the AVP Tour in the US and the FIVB internationally, cementing their status as top players in the world. The two returned to the 2012 Olympics in London, but things didn’t align in their favour. Phil was recovering from a shoulder injury that landed him in the hospital and out of training for a month just prior to the Olympics. In London, they ended up in ninth place.
In 2013, Phil found a new partner in Sean Rosenthal. They won their first match together, the season opener on the FIVB tour, and later took second overall on the world tour in 2014.
But by 2015, it was again time for a change of pace and Phil teamed up with his former partner and college friend Nick Lucena again.
“Nick is hungry to win,” says Phil. “He’s got a lot of drive and he’s got that mentality to never quit. I feed off of that.”
Phil married fellow competitive beach volleyball player Jennifer Corral in 2011 and they now have two children at home in Manhattan Beach, California, the epicentre of beach volleyball. “All the best players in the country live around here,” says Phil. “And you have to train against the best in the world to be the best.”
These days Phil is still an ever-present at the top of the international volleyball rankings. From He and Nick Lucena are bossing tournaments from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto and from Sochi all the way to Yokohama – witness their elite talents on a beach near you soon.