2017-07-04 13:54:00 CEST

It’s time for a Swiss golden cowbell

Nadine Zumkehr and Isabelle Forrer are looking forward to this year’s Gstaad Major – but for different reasons

Isabelle (left) and Anouk won Swatch World Tour Finals bronze in Toronto last seasonIsabelle (left) and Anouk won Swatch World Tour Finals bronze in Toronto last season

This year’s Gstaad Major will be completely different for Nadine Zumkehr and Isabelle Forrer.

Both Swiss players, who represented their country at last year’s Olympic Games, put down the Mikasa last season after glittering careers at the highest level of beach volleyball.

Now retired from the sport, the pair are looking forward to watching their home tournament without the stress and expectation of previous years – and hoping the Swiss teams can reach the podium and end a 17-year wait for a women’s gold medal.

“It will be very weird to not spend the whole week up there for the first time in so many years,” says Nadine who won bronze here in 2012 and is now working as a teacher in a local school.

“Gstaad always was a very special place to play for me, not only because it's in Switzerland, but because it's really close to where I grew up. I also feel players from all around the world loving this place. The energy in this place always was an incredible feeling.

“Winning bronze and a cowbell there in 2012 was one of the most emotional successes of my career. Being part of the awarding ceremony in this event was something really big and unforgettable for me.”

Both players’ former partners, Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joana Heidrich, decided to join forces following Nadine and Isabelle’s retirement.

The new team have enjoyed success in recent weeks on the World Tour, including a fifth place finish in the Poreč Major last week. So what do their ex-teammates think of the partnership?

“Anouk is doing a solid job playing defense,” says Isabelle, who is still deciding what to do following her retirement and is happy playing tennis in her spare time. “She has just started playing on the left side now and Joana for sure is one of the best blockers on tour.

“They are both good side out players and they bring really good individual qualities into the new team and I’m sure figure out how to put it together. There’s always a lot of figuring out what your partner needs on the court in what moment so she can perform at her best. I think they’ll improve individually and as a team and have a lot of potential to reach their goals.”

“I worked really close with all the Swiss girls the past few years, so it's normal that my fingers are always crossed for them now,” says Nadine.

Nadine and Jo reached the Olympic quarterfinals last summer.Nadine and Jo reached the Olympic quarterfinals last summer.

“Jo and I had a great last year playing together. We fought very hard for our goals and had a great Olympic season. Our quarterfinal at the Olympic Games was one of our best moments as a team, we played our best, which in the end was still not enough to beat Larissa and Talita that day. It was one of the hardest losses and one of the most incredible moments of my career at the same time, so for sure a day that Jo, our team and myself shared and won't forget!”

No Swiss women’s team have ever won a golden cowbell in Gstaad – in fact Zumkehr’s bronze medal with Simone Kuhn in 2012 remains the only medal a Swiss women’s team have won here.

With Anouk and Jo and Poreč Major bronze medalists Tanja Hüberli and Nina Betschart in good form – both Isabelle and Nadine believe that statistic has a good chance of changing this week.

“I really hope that we'll soon have more Swiss medal winners there and to keep some of these cowbells in our country!” says Nadine, who is now expecting a baby.

“I am hoping for a Swiss win and both teams Anouk and Jo and Tanja and Nina have the potential to grab a cowbell.

“If I look at the results so far, Agatha and Duda are performing very consistently on an incredible level. Agatha is a great player and a great character in so many ways for many years already, and I think no one doubts Duda’s talent.”

For Zumkehr her current situation means that beach volleyball is not at the top of her agenda.

“To be honest I’m not missing it,” she says. I’m really happy with my 'new life', even though I had a lot of fun playing beach volleyball.

“In winter I trained indoor a few times, just for fun and to be active and now I'm not doing a lot of sports besides some swimming and some yoga…for good reasons, I'm getting bigger and bigger every week, so I won't do a lot of sports this summer, but for the best reasons I could imagine…”

The Gstaad Major main draw begins on Wednesday and you can watch all the action live on our BeachStream channel.

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