The sky over Hamburg is gray and cloudy at this time of lunch. In the beach hall, photo wallpaper is still trying to touch the Caribbean. Kira Walkenhorst, 28, just came from training. In fact, she had to retire a long time: she became Olympic champion, world champion and twice European champion in beach volleyball together with her partner Laura Ludwig. After that, her body refused to serve, Walkenhorst announced her resignation. Now he sits and drinks a cappuccino. Being able to hold the cup alone is a success. He wants to come back.
SZ: Kira Walkenhorst, let's talk about money. You have won everything in your sport. Have you ever thought about how much money you would make if you were successful as a football player?
Kira Walkenhorst: Hard question. Very, very much, clearly. Much more than now. But I would never complain. People love football, that's why there is all the money, it's simply logical. In addition, there are many sports, which also have much heavier beach volleyball.
For example, for gymnasts, canoeists or fences, it is incredibly difficult to find sponsors. Or athletes! They have so little space that they can offer sponsors. Is that unfair? Of course. It would be better if everyone paid well for their performance, because everyone forgave a lot.
You made a good profit yourself?
If you look at your career as a whole, then that's what you do. Of course it's different in the beginning. When I started beach volleyball, I failed immediately. So you fly to China for a tournament, you drop in the first round and you come home. You get zero rewards but have paid for your own expensive flights and all other travel expenses.
This is not paid by the association?
It works like this: I've been employed at Bundeswehr throughout my career. It is a great privilege, the Bundeswehr is paying me a regular salary and releasing me for sports. With the pay you have to make at first, the sport is funded. Travels, coaches, everything. Of course it is a loss at first if you do not have a sponsor yet. If you later have team status, that association is included in the cost of travel and coaching.
And do sponsors succeed?
No, sponsors don't line up in beach volleyball. You have to work hard for each partner and have a good manager. I greatly benefited from the partnership with Laura Ludwig because she already had a name in the sport. It helps.
How much does the sponsor pay?
Very different. It depends on where you wear the logo on your body. Head is the most expensive inventory. Then pants behind, hands and so on. Usually contracts are concluded for one to three years. So at the beginning of the season you know how much money will be available, even without the prize money. With us who have done well, we have almost always been able to cover fixed costs through sponsorship. So we didn't go to the tournament thinking that if we didn't finish fifth, we would lose money.
And then you hit money on the head?
Haha, no. Most of the time we invested in sports. Hiring a nutritionist or participating in tournaments with our personal physiotherapist. In the last few years I have also managed to cover something.
Sounds very reasonable.
Bad, isn't it?
You never bought something special, a prize? Not even after the Olympic victory?
I once bought an expensive smartphone because my old one broke down. But otherwise I wouldn’t know what that could be. Apparel? I spend most of my time in sports. Shopping is hard for me because I'm so tall.
You wanted to end your career. Why are you working on a comeback now?
I didn't want to stop, I thought: I have to. Because my body was on strike.
They are injured quite often.
I had surgery ten times, but it was always clear what had happened, what the rehab plan looked like and when I would return. The thing about the rib was different, I always popped out of it. It hurt like hell, and the doctors had no idea why it happened and what you could do. Plus, my shoulder was broken, I couldn't even get a cup off the shelf. That's when I thought, this is it. She is no longer in it.
I have found a naturopath, he does complementary medicine and is a leader in iris diagnostics. It worked great for me. It doesn't hurt anymore. This is almost ridiculous because I no longer knew how to be pain-free. I am now in advanced training and will return to the 2020 sand. I don't feel well for a long time. After the 2020 Olympics, we will see if I approach the next Olympic cycle with a suitable partner.
They teach the lecturer. Are sports and economics similar?
I teach in companies. There are many parallels between competitive sports and business. Managers can learn a lot from top athletes. You need to recognize the strengths of individuals and bring them together in a way that makes them stronger. It was the same with Laura and me. You must clearly point the goal. And many flaws cannot be left on the road.
Not everyone is so resilient.
I think so. You don't have to be special to achieve something special. It's a matter of willpower. Success rarely has to do with exceptional talent, but with conviction and hard work.
But giving up is also human.
Everyone knows the idea. I tore my cruciate ligament once and had to do rehab and bodybuilding for a year. That, of course, is tedious. Then I play my first game in the first tournament after an injury and I catch a cruciate ligament in my second knee. Because you know right away: Now it all starts from the beginning. My motivation has not been at its peak for a few days. But then you have to stand up and follow your goal. That's what my speech is called: "Get up! Follow your goals."
And how long do you follow the goal?
Until you reach it, of course. In my case it was Olympic gold.
When you won so much, it was about how different you and your partner Laura Ludwig were in character. Is this the secret of success?
At first, this was a barrier to success. We work hard to understand that it is enough to be in harmony with the field. And that besides, everyone can do their own thing. Of course it would be cool to have someone you are completely on the same wavelength with. That was not the case and that's fine.
So you're not friends?
We are work colleagues. Of course, we celebrated together when we won gold. But we would see each other 250 days a year, so you don't have to go on vacation together.
How many hours of the profession involve professional athletes?
It depends. Twice two hours a day training sounds nice. But you have four hours between units in which you have to go down to get the best performance back. There are also two to three physical meetings a week. Well, I had more. Interviews with a psychologist, flight bookings, media meetings. So, there are days when you train for four hours and then there are days that are really busy. And of course, time is always a problem.
Before I became a beach volleyball player I played volleyball in the team hall. Because I did strength training from five to seven in the morning, I went to training as a physical therapist and trained from eight to ten in the evening with the team.
Five o'clock in the morning, you must want it.
Strength training was only three times a week. But it's complicated because you have to go to bed early. Meeting someone in the evening is not so easy.
And do you still have friends who are not professional athletes?
Yes, a few with good nerves! It is important that they know that I will never come on their birthday because I do not feel that way. But because it is not possible.
Once a year I go to a carnival in Cologne, I will get everything back! And otherwise it's just a matter of priority. It won't always be that way.
If at some point it's over with your professional career, then what do you do? I finished my training as a physical therapist. But I think more about starting or joining a startup. That's why I'm researching the market right now because I don't want to wait until after my career. So if someone has a million dollar idea, they can get in touch! I am also currently on the jury of a start-up platform and part of an international make-up campaign for a cosmetics company. I will continue to give lectures because there is a great demand.
With your wife, one year, you have threesomes. Has your relationship with money changed since you were a mother?
I can no longer make money for sports. I know, I have to feed my family. I am currently the sole breadwinner.
Was it complicated for you to become a parent?
Shamelessly painstaking. And expensive, we talk about money. Overall, a five-digit sum. I would not have thought it possible earlier: that it was a matter of finances, whether you could become a parent or not. The luxury is that we can afford it and start new experiments with artificial insemination.
It sounds exhausting.
There were eight or nine attempts in total. In Denmark and Germany. Depending on the method, the amounts vary. But I know many who say, OK, now we're saving, we can afford three tries – and if that doesn't work, we'll have to save again. It is not fair.
Do you think it should be paid at the box office?
Yes, to share. We need to buy from a sperm bank, so I think it's okay to pay for it yourself. But what I find beneficial: With Mary, my wife, it was clear that she couldn't get pregnant naturally. Artificial fertilization was medically necessary. If she had gone with a man, the fund would have paid three tries. But she came with me, so we had to carry it ourselves. It can't be. And is there anything else I can say?
We are married, but I had to adopt children who gave birth to my husband. The kids are one year old, but I've been officially a mom since October 15th.
Do you have a disadvantage too? otherwise experienced, for example with sponsors?
No, it was the first time. But before that I didn't pay much attention. I know this is still a complicated topic in men's soccer, but it's never been in my environment. It's not private and it's not professional.