Injuries have set Boermans and de Groot back, but the Dutch will go strong in Mexico

Despite his 23 years of age, Yorick de Groot is no longer a beach volleyball rookie. The Dutch defender has one Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour title at the Elite16 level and two European Championship silver medals under his belt, but is still a few weeks away from the biggest event of his career.

De Groot and partner Stefan Boermans are among the 48 men’s teams that will be in action during the 2023 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Tlaxcala, Mexico, from October 6-15, in the highlight of the international season.

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Partners since 2021, the two won the FIVB World Tour Gstaad five-star event that same season and already had some success in Mexico in 2023, taking silver at the Beach Pro Tour La Paz Challenge, in March. But nothing beats the excitement of playing the best teams in the world in the biggest tournament of the year in a few weeks in Mexico.

The Dutch could have had that feeling already last year as the good results they had early in the season secured them a spot at the 2022 edition of the World Championship, but, dealing with a severe back injury that sidelined him for several months, de Groot couldn’t play and saw his partner team up with Matthew Immers to finish 17th.

“It will be my first World Championship and I’m excited about it,” he told Volleyball World. “I’ve been on some pretty big events, but to play in a World Championship during Olympic qualification is something else. We qualified on a pretty good spot last year, but unfortunately I couldn’t play because of my injury. I was upset, of course, but it would have been reckless of me to play.”

Remaining healthy has, in fact, been the biggest obstacle Boermans and de Groot have faced in their almost three years as partners. The Dutch had a very strong 2021 season, winning gold in Gstaad and pushing reigning Olympic and world champions Anders Mol and Christian Sørum of Norway to the tie-breaker in the final of the European Championship, and later climbed to the top of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Ranking, but since then, have only being able to share the same side of the court on six international events.

In 2022, it was de Groot who missed significant time because of a thoracic hernia. He got back in strong form in La Paz, last March, but then it was Boermans who missed some tournaments because of a back injury, including the European Championship, where de Groot took another silver, this time with Leon Luini.

“We started this season very well and we could tell our playing level was still very high, but Stefan’s injury made things a bit more difficult for us,” the defender reflected. “But if we can get in a rhythm and get good chemistry on the court, we can be very strong. We want to go as far as possible at the World Championship but we understand that only after getting on the court and playing we’ll have a better idea of where we stand.”

The tournaments missed by the two have set them behind in the Dutch internal battle for qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The country has three teams in contention, but only two can secure a spot at next year’s Games and, because of that, a good result at the World Championship, the event with the most points in play during the entire Olympic qualification period, could be critical for them.

Right now, Boermans and de Groot have 2,720 points compiled in just four finishes and a long way to go to catch Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen (5,160) and Matthew Immers/Steven van de Velde (4,540), which have each played in nine eligible events.

“It’s been a tough race as all three teams have been getting good finishes,” de Groot added. “We know that getting a good result in Mexico could be very important in terms of getting us closer to Paris and we’ll try and accomplish that.”

The Dutch were drawn into Pool A and will start their campaign in Mexico against defending champions Mol and Sørum, Italians Daniele Lupo and Enrico Rossi and Mozambique’s Jorge Monjane and Ainadino Martinho.

“I think this is a very tough pool,” the defender reacted. “Norway and Italy are both very good teams and we’ll have to play our best if we want to beat them. I don’t know much about Mozambique, but if they qualified, I’m sure they can play.”