“It was not an easy decision for me,” said Julius Thule of Hamburg at a press conference on Monday. “I’ve thought about it for a long time in the past few weeks.” In the end, the 24-year-old world-class beach volleyball player came to a decision that surprised even those around him: He quit. At the end of the year Thule ended his career as a high-performance athlete. He ranks second in the World Cup and fifth in the Olympics with Clemens Weckler, as a beacon of hope for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“This is probably the biggest decision of my life so far,” Thule says. “Beach volleyball has been my life for a long time. I am so grateful for the many great experiences and encounters. I would never have dreamed of the sporting successes of Clemens and myself.” Wechler will now form a duo with Nils Eilers. His beach partner Lars Flügen recently ended his career.
Thule prompts thereafter: “I’m fine.” It was not health reasons that prompted him to make this decision, or perhaps forced him to. He retired at the age of 24 – in addition to being a top player. It can’t be a lack of mathematical perspective that drives him. After all, he and Weckler are among the best in the world, and their silver in the 2019 World Cup on home soil was by no means a stroke of luck, as they often proved enough.
At the Olympics this summer, more than a fifth could have been achieved. With their wretched preparation, it was astonishing and impressive how strong they were in Japan: Weckler had an appendix surgery, and then Thule ruptured the ligaments in his foot. Paris 2024? They’d be young enough for that, and it could have been their toys.
What is the reason? The short form is: “I want to put a new focus in my life,” Thule sums up. He has so far put his best sports and law studies under one roof – prioritizing athletic goals.
100 percent – no less
The decision to end his career has only matured in the past few weeks. Even Tokyo, according to Tolle, did not bother with such thoughts at all. “Olympia was our big dream. Even after that, it didn’t really bother me,” he says. The season continued. The Olympic bid had to be addressed first.
But towards the end of the season, the brood came. “Then I started studying and building it up, and I noticed that now it can be difficult to combine the two,” he says. After the season the brood persisted, and the weight increased. Then the decision matured.
“I really want to ramp up my law studies,” he says. He does not want to study half-heartedly. Studying takes a lot and always more. On the contrary, focusing solely on sports is not his thing, and he hasn’t wanted to do that in recent years either. His studies were also important to him as a scale. “I have now noticed that I have the depth that a law degree deserves for me, and it is necessary now that I have reached the hot stage, and that I cannot take that depth because of the long time required for this sport.” Both 100 percent are not possible. Thule had to choose.
“I didn’t want to stop Clemens.”
But there is something else. “I also look forward to a life that can be formed more freely. For me, studying is more than just studying and attending lectures. You have a lot of options,” he says. It’s diverse and I want to smell it.”
There was no longer a place for a top-class sport like the one he wanted to play. “I don’t think I will be able to play a high-performance sport at 100 percent with full dedication in the next three years. I think I can no longer deliver on this,” he says — and adds one important thing, “and I don’t want to give in anymore. But that is exactly it.” What I have always wanted and the most important requirement for Clemens, myself and our entire team – and certainly also the reason for our success.” 100 percent, nothing less.
The option to play EM next year in Munich, Weckler’s hometown, was only a theoretical one. “I wish I could play with Clemens in his hometown,” Thule says. “I think it would be a great event.” However, the current Olympic cycle is only three years long, and Weckler needs time to get used to it with his new partner. “I didn’t want to stop Clemens. Now it’s the most consistent decision,” the 24-year-old explains.
Weckler and Toll – That was more than just a proper sports community, the two are friends. They say “and we will stay that way”. “Not only were our successes driven, but above all, our friendship made the time a special day,” Thule says. It was difficult for him to tell his partner on the beach of his decision.
But Clemens reacted very well. And he understood,” he says. Wechler himself says: “Of course I was very surprised at first. It hit me unexpectedly. But Julius made it very clear to me. If he notices that his focus is shifting and he can no longer give 100 percent to competitive sport, then this is the right decision for him. And so is fair to me.”
Don’t be afraid of what’s to come
For Thule, after years of high-end sports, a new chapter in life has begun. He is not afraid to regret the decision. Even if he said: “I will definitely miss big parts in the sport. Especially this competition – I loved it.”
W: still young. “If in six months I thought I made the mistake of my life, I would think about it again. But I don’t believe it.”
We might see him again at some point in beach volleyball. “Maybe not directly, but I’ll keep in touch with beach volleyball,” Julius Thule says. “Sport has given me so much that I want to give back.”