Lausanne, Switzerland, March 25, 2019 – With the first leg of the inaugural FIVB Snow Volleyball World Tour just days away, the FIVB has been speaking to Gernot Leitner, former beach volleyball player and now President of the Austrian Volleyball Federation and a member of the CEV Snow Volleyball Working Group, about the growth of the sport.
Austria will once again lead the way when it hosts the first leg of the FIVB 2019 Snow Volleyball World Tour in Wagrain-Kleinarl co-organised with the CEV this weekend.
First of all, can you share your experiences of playing snow volleyball?
I was one of the first athletes to play snow volleyball! Back in 1997, my teammate Oliver Stamm and I won the competition in Europe, beating teams from Italy, Czech Republic and others.
It was good fun, we mainly won because we had the best shoes! We also played a few more exhibition matches, all the way up to 3,000m glacier matches! But it is exciting to see the discipline grow even more now.
Austria has hosted a number of CEV European Tour events, as well as last year’s first CEV Snow Volleyball European Championship. What is it about snow volleyball that is so attractive to the Austrian Volleyball Federation?
Obviously, Austria’s tradition in mountain tourism and winter sports was the main reason that led to combining it with volleyball. Austria has a very active beach volleyball scene for decades – we held the last World Championships in Vienna in 2017, but it goes all the way back to the early 1990’s.
With this in mind, Austria was a natural ground to be a pioneer country for snow volleyball.
How do the athletes in Austria and Europe feel about the development of this new sport?
It is certainly a new discipline that will grow as more athletes discover and play snow volleyball. At these early stages we see that the top beach and indoor players are focused on their respective competitions, but there are thousands of players out there that will become stars of the snow.
What do the Austrian fans like about the game? What is the atmosphere like?
The atmosphere is fun, easy, entertaining and a perfect add-on to skiers’ experiences in the mountains. The whole concept is about high performance sports and mountain tourism entertainment, which attracts both dedicated fans and passing visitors.
Do you think snow volleyball has good commercial potential in Austria and around the world?
We have already had a number of commercial partners within Austria’s tourism sector express an interest in snow volleyball. This is reflected throughout Europe, especially countries with active mountain tourism destinations, and I am sure they will be successful hosts for snow volleyball.
Why is further development of snow volleyball important for you as a National Federation?
We feel the responsibility as a pioneer of snow volleyball to remain a driving force in terms of quality and quantity of events in the future. The goal is certainly to attract more venues to host tournaments and grow the European and World Tours, so that snow volleyball becomes a viable alternative for athletes who want to play a whole season.
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