Olympic volleyballer Axel Hagar has been living in Nelson with his family for the past few months. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Beers, Burgers and Banter with Axel Hagar


Every few weeks the Nelson Weekly sits down to have lunch at Burger Culture with someone interesting doing something interesting. This week we speak to German and Olympic beach volleyball bronze medallist Axel Hagar about his time in Nelson. 

So, what brought you and your family to Nelson?
We wanted to experience something very different and we wanted to spend time together. At home I am a bit of a weekend dad because I am on the road a lot. I felt like my boys need me more than just weekends. I had never been to New Zealand and we ran into a couple in Germany who did something similar in Nelson. They told us it was sunny, had good sport opportunities and wasn’t too crowded. We moved here on October 3 and enrolled our boys (Jako and Johann) at Nelson Intermediate School.

What has been your impression of the region?
It’s a lovely city with lots of really nice people. What we like the most is everyone is relaxed. Especially compared to Germany where there is always a lot of pressure. People here like to be outside and socialise. It is like a big family. The second day we were here, I got put in touch with Alan Brodie and Nelson Volleyball. Saxton has some of the best facilities ever seen in my life. My boys ended up playing every day and played four tournaments, at school and the club.

Tell me about your Olympic experience?
It was my biggest success. We had tried in Atlanta in 1996 but finished ninth. I started playing professionally at 15 so it was an almost 20-year journey. We had won a lot of German and European championships, had been on world tours – but this was the one thing missing in my career. At the Olympics there are over 10,000 athletes and only 500 or so medals, so to be one of them was pretty special. It was quite an achievement and an amazing experience. It was the final point. I made the block against Portugal. In that moment, it is more relief than anything. Like when you climb a mountain. When you get to the top, in that moment, you are tired, sweaty, exhausted and would rather be on the couch at home. The joy comes later. After the first congrats and interviews, when you see your wife and parents, it becomes real.

What do you do back in Germany?
I work for a company which helps other businesses with personal development, I give seminars but also work with businesses to give the people the confidence and belief they need to be successful. I draw on my Olympic experience by getting people to concentrate on a target. I also make sure they have a target, because a lot of people work without one. It’s about being disciplined. I also lead managers on mountain climbs such as Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua which is 7000m high.

What has been the highlight of your time here?
I have loved it here. Nelson has been one of the best periods of my life. We rented a place on Bisley Ave so got to wake up to an ocean view every morning. We had to pinch ourselves. We are sad we have to leave, but are very grateful for all the wonderful people we have met and amazing experiences.