Sometimes to their own surprise, beach volleyball players Katja Stam (22, left in the photo) and Raïsa Schoon (19) make their Olympic debut on Saturday.

In a world without corona, the couple had watched the Tokyo Olympics on TV last year and their eyes were on Paris 2024.

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"The postponement of the Games has been a disadvantage for one athlete, for another an advantage," says Stam shortly before traveling to Japan.

"Last year we didn't even think about the Games. There was also another couple who had a view of participation via the Olympic ranking."

In the end, only Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink were directly seeded and Stam and Schoon took a ticket through the very last qualifying tournament in The Hague.

An extra match against the couple Marleen van Iersel/Pleun Ypma clearly favored the young duo.

It was extra special for Schoon, who comes from Werkendam.

Her mother Debora Schoon-Kadijk took part in the 1996 and 2000 Games and was a coach in 2004.

"I vaguely remember that last one. I was almost 3. At that time, I was raised by grandparents," she says.

Until two years ago, her mother was also Schoon's coach.

Even after that it remained in the family, because national coach Richard de Kogel is her uncle.

Katja Stam watches as Raïsa attacks Schoon.

Katja Stam watches as Raïsa attacks Schoon.

Photo: ANP

Stam received a visit from Meppelink at school

Stam and her class at secondary school in Emmen happened to have enough visits from Meppelink, an Olympic athlete from the neighbourhood, as part of a project.

"She was preparing for the London Games. I found it very interesting."

Stam was a talent and ended up in the national youth selection via the regional training center in Drenthe.

They are different in stature - 1.92 (Stam) against 1.74 meters - but equal in their sporting experience.

"I'm more for the overview and I don't have that hard ball like Katja hits. I do go to the ground faster. We complement each other," explains Schoon.

"We find fun in the game important and we have the same humor," says Stam.

Important, because they have been traveling the world together for a year now.

"You're like a married couple sometimes."

Coach De Kogel thinks that the opponents in Tokyo are not happy with the internationally unknown Dutch couple as an opponent.

Although it is again the question whether the Canadian world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes are awake from their first group match, Saturday at 5.00 am Dutch time.

In Ostrava at a World Cup they met twice.

Stam and Schoon lost both times, albeit narrowly.

"It's an adventure for them," De Kogel thinks.

"They have only recently started the Games. It will be a new experience, but we have to try to think of it as a tournament like any other. They have already beaten many teams from the top 15 in the world. They found it a bit annoying , such a couple they don't know."

See also: From Bol en Zonderland to Van der Poel: these are the Games in a nutshell

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