EP_Beach Pro Tour_2022_GER-USA-10

Last week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Maldives Challenge event was the last tournament in Chantal Laboureur’s career as a professional athlete. The distinguished German beach volleyballer retired as a competitor, but vowed to stay close to the sport, one way or another.

“I will miss beach volleyball for sure,” she told Volleyball World. “I learned so many things that will also help me in my life after beach volleyball - how to deal with defeats, how to go through struggles, how to fight, how to find solutions, how to enjoy what you have. Beach volleyball gave me thousands of moments of goose bumps, happiness and lifelong memories!”

The 32-year-old defender’s last professional match was a true example of the thrilling emotions beach volleyball can offer. In a round of 16 game in the Maldives, Laboureur and her partner Sarah Schulz put up an epic three-set battle against Thailand’s Worapeerachayakorn Kongphopsarutawadee and Taravadee Naraphornrapat. The sets were tight, with the second and the third pushed to overtime. Laboureur delivered four aces and 19 successful attacks towards a match-high 23 points before graciously bowing out with a 2-1 (21-18, 20-22, 17-15) defeat as the last curtain dropped.

“Now I am really looking forward to what comes next in life,” said Laboureur. “I will somehow stay connected to beach volleyball; I just don’t know yet what exactly it will look like. Thanks to everybody who supported me and the sport in different kinds of ways!”

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Chantal made a fabulous start to her international playing career some decade and a half ago, winning her first two major competitions. At their very debut in 2007, she and Levke Spinger triumphed at the CEV U18 European Championship in Brno. A year later, they topped the podium at the FIVB U19 Beach Volleyball World Championship in The Hague. During her youth years, Chantal also added a U23 continental gold in 2012 and a bronze in 2011, as well as a fourth place at the U21 World Championship in 2010.

Laboureur made her FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour debut in 2010 and stepped on to a podium for the first time at the 2012 Durban Open, claiming silver alongside Julia Sude. Over the next 10 years, Laboureur piled up a collection of two gold, six silver and three bronze medals. She and Sude climbed all the way to the top of the podium at tournaments of the highest level, the 2016 Porec Major and the 2017 Gstaad 5-star. In 2019, Laboureur and Sandra Ittlinger stopped just short of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after losing the final of the qualification tournament in Haiyang.

In the last season of her career, before it all ended in the Maldives, Laboureur and Schulz played at several events in the inaugural season of the Beach Pro Tour and made it to the podium at the Doha Challenge in May with silver.

Laboureur’s showcase of medals also includes а 2017 European Championship bronze and four European Tour golds. Last month, she and Karla Borger celebrated as European Queens of the Court in Utrecht too. In her native Germany, Laboureur was named Player of the Year in 2018, won three national championship titles (2017, 2020, 2021) and topped the German King of the Court podium in 2021.

“What I realised more and more in the last period and what I really appreciated and enjoyed a lot was that I could also give something back to people, to offer them a good time while watching our sport or visiting our events. I appreciated their messages when they told me I made them watch or even start playing beach volleyball on their own. So thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! I am grateful to have met so many great persons through my journey in the last 15 years and to make lifetime friendships through the sport,” Laboureur added.

“I look back on two great, beautiful years together with Chantal,” said Laboureur’s most recent partner Sarah Schulz, when her teammate announced her decision at the end of August. “I've grown very fond of her! Chantal can be so proud of what she has achieved as a competitive athlete, but also as a person, and I am super happy to be a part of it. I wish Chantal all the best in her new path, wherever it takes her! Of course, I think it's a pity that we won't be a team in the coming seasons, but Chantal made her decision and I can understand it completely.”

Schulz has already announced her next teammate. The 23-year-old blocker will join forces with 20-year-old Anna-Lena Grune, targeting qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The two reunite after playing at three World Tour events in 2021 together and winning an Apeldoorn 1-star gold and a Nijmegen 1-star silver. The pair will return to the international courts as soon as later this week, when they take to the sand at the Dubai Challenge on the Beach Pro Tour. They will start in the main draw on Sunday.