Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2019 - At the end of the competition here Sunday on the Am Rothenbaum Stadium center court, new men's world champions will be crowned and one of them will be the youngest player ever to win a gold medal at the FIVB World Championships.
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A pair of towering 22-year olds from European countries will be colliding at 2 p.m. (local time) Sunday when 206 cm (6-foot-9) German Julius Thole meets 207 cm (6-foot-9) Russian Oleg Stoyanovskiy with their partners in the finals of the US$1-million FIVB World Championships.
Julius Thole (left) of Germany blocks against American Nick Lucena
If Thole is victorious over his Russian opponent in the gold medal match with his 24-year old Clemens Wickler, he will become the youngest men's FIVB world champion at 22 years, 1 month, and 20 days. He'll be almost 10 months younger than Andre Loyola (22y, 11m, 18d) when he won at Vienna in 2017 with Brazilian Evandro Goncalves.
If Stoyanovskiy wins with his 28-year old partner Viacheslav Krasilnikov, he will become the youngest men's FIVB world champion at 22 years, 9 months, and 11 days or just over 2 months younger than Andre, who finished fifth in this year's championships with George Wanderley.
Both players have been instrumental in leading their teams to the Sunday's gold medal match where the winning pair will share the $60,000 first-place prize, but more importantly, securing the first men's and second overall berth for their country in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The first ticket punched for the Tokyo Summer Games was collected Saturday afternoon before the men's semi-final matches when ninth-seeded Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan outlasted fifth-seeded Alix Klineman and April Ross of the United States 2-0 (23-21, 23-21) in a 58-minute women's gold medal match.
The women's FIVB World Championship podium Saturday with the presenters
In leading their teams to seven-straight match wins, including four consecutive victories during the elimination rounds, Thole and Stoyanovskiy have compiled impressive statistics at the 12th edition of the FIVB World Championships that were initially played in 1997 and have been held every other year.
Thole is the top men's scorer at the 2019 FIVB World Championships with 146 points and ranks fourth in "kills" with 101 and second in blocks with 42. Stoyanovskiy is seventh in scoring (115 points), tied for second in aces (15) with Krasilnikov and ranks ninth in blocks with 25. With Krasilnikov receiving a majority of serves to rank first in "kills" with 22, Stoyanovskiy is the 22nd-ranked attacker with 76 "kills".
Celebration for Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov (right) and Oleg Stoyanovskiy
With more than 12,000 fans watching the action Saturday at Rothenbaum Stadium, both the Germans and Russians each won two matches to advance to the finals of the 2019 FIVB World Championships presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord.
Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov were the first to reach the finals with a 2-0 (21-13, 19-21, 15-11) semi-final win in 58 minutes over 13th-seeded Tri Bourne/Trevor Crabb of the United States. The Russians started play Saturday with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) quarter-final win 38 minutes over 45th-seeded Adrian Carambula/Enrico Rossi of Italy.
Thole, who is from Hamburg, and Wickler posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) quarter-final win in 46 minutes over sixth-seeded Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena of the United States in their opening match Saturday before upsetting the world's No. 1-ranked team in Anders Mol/Christian Sorum of Norway in a 70-minute three-set match (17-21, 21-16, 15-12).
German glee for Julius Thole (left) and Clemens Wickler
Sunday's finale will be the fifth-time the two countries have met for a FIVB World Tour gold medal with the title series tied 2-2. The German defeated Russian pairs for World Tour titles in Spain (2008 at Barcelona) and The Philippines (2018 Manila). Russian teams defeated German opponents in gold medal matches at FIVB stops in Russia (2013 at Anapa) and The Netherlands (2019 at The Hague).
Thole and Wickler will be seeking a second men's world championship for Germany and third overall. Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann topped the men's podium at the 2009 Norway worlds in Stavanger with Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst the women's gold medal winners at the 2017 world championships in Vienna.
If Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov top the Hamburg world championship podium Sunday, it will be Russia's first beach volleyball crown as Dmitri Barsouk/Igor Kolodinsky claimed the silver medal at the 2007 worlds in Gstaad, Switzerland.
The Hague gold medal win for Russia featured both of Sunday's finalists at Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov posted a 2-0 (21-11, 21-18) victory in 35 minutes over Thole and Wickler. The two teams met 10 weeks later in the Qatar with the Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov collecting their second win over the Germans 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-7) in a 44-minute pool play match in Doha.
Entering play Sunday, the German men are 20-35 in FIVB World Tour gold medal matches plus one event (Espinho 2005) where both teams in the title match were from Germany. Russian men are 15-15 in FIVB World Tour gold medal matches plus three events (Xiamen 2018, Yangzhou 2018, and Langkawi 2019) where both teams in the title match were from Russia.
Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov (right) and Oleg Stoyanovskiy with their gold medals January 6 in The Hague