Paraguay's Michelle Valiente Amarilla transformed from a shy girl into a very confident player
Larnaka, Cyprus, July 24, 2014 - In 2013 a very shy and timid Michelle Valiente Amarilla made her debut at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Poland at the age of 15. Now, one year later at the U21 World Championships in Larnaka, the Paraguayan girl transformed into a fearless leader in the field with a vast array of shots.
Back then in Poland Michelle and her 29-year old partner were the first team to represent Paraguay at a World Championship, they finished 37th eventually. After the big event in Stare Jablonki Michelle started training with her own age group.
She teamed up with Erika Mongelos Bobadilla and her old partner Pati became one of their coaches. “We started preparing ourselves for the South-American Games and the Youth Olympic Games in August”, Michelle said on Thursday at the Finikoudes beach in Larnaka.
Erika did not have any experience. “I was new at all of this”, the 17-year old said. “I only started training last year. I knew nothing about beach volleyball. I was suddenly training very hard and all the time.”
Michelle, although younger in age, became her guide. “She knew a lot about this whole tournament thing and when I started playing my first tournament it was with her. So I totally depended on her, on everything. I needed her to support me in everything. Like the part of being shy, the agitated part, being nervous. I was so nervous before every game.”
The girls started playing on the Continental Tour in South-America. “She knew almost everybody”, Erika continued. “So I depended on her to know what they were going to do and what I was supposed to do and what they expected from me. She helped me a lot. So she had to grow up really fast. Even though she is younger than me.”
Michelle: “Playing with an older partner like Pati helped me a lot. I learned a lot at the World Championships in Poland. It kind of changed my personality too. With Erika there is not much of an age difference, we’re just one year apart. I am 16 and she is about to turn 18. Training each day together and working together has helped us a lot. We compliment each other, because she is very passive and I am very energetic.”
Erika added: “She is the talkative one. She is the one that goes for it and takes risks. I am kind of the save one.”
Perfect start in Larnaka
It turned out to be a perfect combination, not only on the Continental Tour, but also on the first day of main draw in Larnaka. The Paraguayan girls defeated the much more experienced Alexandra Varassova and Anna Yeleferenko from Kazakhstan 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) in their first pool match.
“We did not know what to expect, because this it the first time we participate together in an international tournament”, Erika said. “We did not know how they would play. We just trusted our techniques and what we have been training. We tried to be calm and do everything we know.”
Michelle too was nervous, she admitted. “I am a bit more experienced but still I am the youngest and it’s our first age group event.”
After a stable win in the first set, the Paraguayans were pushed more in the second by the Kazakh team. Michelle and Erika were even trailing by four points, but managed to level at 16-16. Erika finished the match at their first set point with a smart spike through the middle.
“We trusted that we were going to be there for each other”, Michelle said about the hick-up in the second set. “We wanted to win, we calmed down and relaxed because we were agitated because we lost points. We were supposed to get our serve into the court.”
Michelle and Erika are partly using this tournament to prepare for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in August, for which they qualified a few months ago. “We are very excited about that”, said Erika.
But the South-American girls will also be eying a prize in Larnaka. “It’s an older category, but we know we have the level to maybe win something”, said Michelle. “It could be only practice, but we are actually expecting to win. But before everything else we want to enjoy.”