Davis Cup 2018
Silver salad bowl, or what tennis players dream about
Beach volleyball is a sport that attracts spectators with participants’ appearane to no lesser extent than with gameplay. Barefoot volleyball players play in swimsuits on hot sand, while the blazing sun and friendly atmosphere make competitions seem unserious.
Beach volleyball was accepted by the International Volleyball Federation and belongs to Olympic sports, photo WEB
Hawaii and California dispute each other’s right to be called the birthplace of beach volleyball. In early 20th century people of the both American states began throwing balls over nets on sunny beaches. Initially, the teams included 6 players each, like in classic volleyball; first matches with today’s line-up ― two players per team ― were held only in the 1930s.
The current line-up of 2 players per team, photo WEB
While beach volleyball was spreading across the globe, winning the hearts of fans and players, changing, fighting for official recognition ― Russian people just played it with pleasure. In 1930s Russians knew about this sport but considered it to be merely a joyful pastime. Professional sportsmen showed interest in beach volleyball only 50 years later, while the first USSR official competition was held in 1986.
The first USSR official competition was held in 1986, photo WEB
In 1989 the Moscow Cup and the Union Cup tournaments were held. Same year, Russian men’s teams took part in the third unofficial World Championship in Rio de Janeiro. Artamonov—Mikhelsons and Abdrakhmanov―Ovsyannikov duos failed to win medals, but showed to the world that the USSR had decent beach volleyball players.
In Sestroretsk near St. Petersburg the first national Cup was played, photo WEB
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia forgot about beach volleyball for a while, but as soon as 1993, the first national Cup was played in Sestroretsk near St. Petersburg. At that, following the best traditions, it included men’s and women’s teams. Later same year a Russian men’s duo took part in the European Championship in Spain, and in 1994 a women’s pair also set forth to fight for the Europe’s major title.
Traditionally, duos from Brazil and the USA were the strongest participants in world competitions, but within the recent years Germany and the Netherlands have been managing to win the medal places more and more often. In contrast to classical volleyball, Russian beach volleyball players couldn’t give a fitting rebuff to Brazilians and other more experienced teams. Eventually, in 2007 the men’s duo of Barsuk—Kolodinsky won silver in Switzerland.
The men’s duo of Barsuk—Kolodinsky, photo WEB
And on the European Championship the Russian women’s team of Uryadova―Shiryaeva won gold in 2006. Two years later the Bratkova―Ukolova duo took the European major title. In February that year the Russian players Lyamin―Krasilnikov won gold in one of the World Tournament’s competitions on the island of Kish, but in April they left the struggle in 1/8 finals. The women’s team managed to hold longer ― until ¼ finals.
The women’s duo of Uryadova—Shiryaeva, photo WEB
At home, Russian beach volleyball stars also have something to fight for. Russian Championships are annual; they consist of preliminary stages held in different cities and the final game. The fight for the major title used to be held in Sestroretsk, but now either Anapa or Sochi welcomes the players. This year’s finals will take place in Sochi from August 29th till September 3rd; the national series started in Anapa’s Voley-Grand sports complex on the 24th of May.
As of today, Dmitry Barsukov has the largest number of the Russian Championship victories ― 7 gold medals. Among the women, Natalia Uryadova and Evegenia Ukolova have 5 gold medals each.
Dmitry Barsuk, Natalia Uryadova and Evgenia Ukolova, photo WEB
What is more, since 1992 Russian has been a member of the European Volleyball Confederation and organized the European Championship final matches twice ― in 2005 (Moscow) and in 2009 (Sochi).
In Russia volleyball is under the responsibility of the Volleyball Federation of Russia. Not only national championships, but also festivals and tournaments for adolescents are organized due to its support. Nevertheless, Russian beach volleyball players return home with international and European medals not so often as we would like. Experts explain it by the low popularization of professional beach volleyball in Russia.
Victoria Romanova, Moscow, Russia