FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Maceio Open 2016 | 23 - 28 February 2016


Press release

Lehtonen and Lahti chase Olympic dream

Riikka Lehtonen (right) and Taru Lahti of Finland at the Olsztyn Grand Slam in 2015

Helsinki, Finland, February 23, 2016 - Riikka Lehtonen and Taru Lahti have been in Brazil since January preparing a beach volleyball season they hope will culminate at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“We have had a great camp here so far, training with every kind of weather conditions which provides for an extra challenge when it comes to testing our abilities,” said Lehtonen, who switched from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball just three years ago.

Lehtonen has won two titles in the elite CEV Volleyball Champions League and the national league in a number of different countries, which makes her one of the most successful female athletes in Finland in any sport. She still has one dream though – to play at the Olympics. And she is now trying to make this dream come true with the help of beach volleyball partner Taru Lahti.

“We are looking forward to the 2016 season and to playing the next tournaments,” Lehtonen added.

Taru Lahti is one of the up-and-coming stars of the international beach volleyball scene. Back in 2014 she finished fourth at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championships in Myslowice, Poland together with Anniina Parkkinen. Last year, she received the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award on the FIVB World Tour. Her career seems to have come full circle now she is playing with her childhood idol Lehtonen.

“It is nice to see that our game is improving step by step. We are working hard, but the main thing is that we enjoy ourselves all the time,” Lahti said.

Finland Head Coach Kai Liukkonen is realistic and knows what it takes to claim a spot to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “We have to claim a series of good finishes in the next tournaments if we want to get to Rio via the FIVB Ranking. And these results won’t come without training hard and performing well,” he said.

This means that the Finns have to finish in the top four in Open tournaments and the top eight at Grand Slams. Last year, Lehtonen and Lahti claimed their best result at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Sochi Open in Russia where they were fourth. They also finished ninth at the Porec Major Series event and at the Olsztyn Grand Slam. In addition, they topped the podium at the NEVZA zonal event held at the Kisakallio Sports Institute in Lohja, Finland.

Their main goal is clear - Lehtonen and Lahti want to compete at the Rio Olympics later this summer. “I trust my players and have a lot of confidence in this team,” coach Liukkonen concluded.

Lehtonen and Lahti will be starting their 2016 season on Wednesday when they perform in the Main Draw of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Maceió Open in Brazil.

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