A favourite with the ladies, he is 1,94-metres tall with golden skin, a mop of caramel hair and an enviable bone structure. If his 'Ken doll on the beach' appearance was not striking enough, 35-year-old Patrick 'Paddy' Heuscher is also one of Switzerland's best beach volleyball players. He won bronze in Athens in 2004 and will represent Switzerland at the London Olympics this August.
A gruelling schedule
I meet Heuscher in the cool air of morning. He has been up since 7.30 a.m. to get ready for the day. He tells me he usually eats bread and jam with coffee and fruit for breakfast. Certainly stamina is a crucial ingredient for another shot at Olympic glory.
Looking back, Heuscher remembers that his success in Athens came following the "difficult decision" to turn professional. "I postponed my psychology studies to focus on beach volleyball. Ultimately the sacrifice paid off."
He started with indoor volleyball at the age 15 and was introduced to beach volleyball by the Frauenfeld Juniors Volleyball Club. He opted for the latter because he wanted to play throughout the world, which is not possible with Swiss indoor volleyball. "I began playing with Stefan Kobel [,my partner in Athens,] and was occasionally supported by the renowned volleyball coach Marc Gerson."
Heuscher was just 20 when he played in his first International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) tournament in 1997. He counts several Swiss beach volleyball legends among his partners (Stefan Kobel, Sascha Heyer, Jefferson Bellaguarda) and went on to win a string of metals at the European Championships: gold in 2004 in Germany, silver in 2005 in Russia and bronze in 2006 in Holland. In 2008, he and Heyer qualified for the Beijing Olympics.
Since 2011, Heuscher has partnered with Brazilian-born Jefferson Bellaguarda. It is 9.30 a.m. and we are on our way to the sand court in Bern to meet 'Bella' as well as the Olympic duo's coach and former beach volleyball legend Markus Egger. They will...