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Ivanov - out, Ivanov - in, for Bulgaria’s Youth Olympic team

Stefan Ivanov and Ivailo Ivanov won two age categories simultaneously at a national youth tournament in Bozhurishte

Kardzhali, Bulgaria, May 12, 2014 - The team which is going to represent Bulgaria at the 2014 CEV Youth Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Final from May 15 through 17 in Antalya, which constitutes Europe’s qualification tournament for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, has undergone a 50% change.  It may not be immediately obvious as one Ivanov has replaced another, but the Bulgarian youth national beach volleyball team will not be able to rely on Stefan Ivanov for the important competitions this summer, with the hope that Ivailo Ivanov's partnership with Dimitar Kalchev will work just as well.

Stefan and Dimitar caused a major sensation in Bulgarian beach volleyball last summer.  As a newly-formed partnership, the two teenagers showed some great performances against more experienced teams during the domestic 2013 Men’s National Tour.  They went on to secure Bulgaria’s spot in the Youth Continental Cup Final by claiming the runner-up position at the Zonal Phase tournament in Moscow.  And then they achieved an unexpected success by placing fifth at the 2013 CEV U18 Beach Volleyball European Championship in Molodechno and qualifying for this year’s FIVB U19 World Championship.

Unfortunately, Stefan Ivanov will not get to personally enjoy the fruits of these achievements.  Due to ligament surgery he underwent in January, the then 16-year-old player, who was also part of Bulgaria’s U17 national indoor volleyball team to become gold medalist and MVP of the 2013 Pre-Youth Boys Balkan Championship, will miss out the entire 2014 beach season.

A replacement was needed for Antalya and one was found. Ivailo and Stefan are not related. But there are numerous other similarities between them. They both come from the same club, Victoria Volley Plovdiv, and also play for their club’s men’s squad, they both were born in 1997 and both were part of the national indoor volleyball team which won consecutive Balkan titles.  In addition, they also used to be partners on the sand and in September 2012 even won two age categories simultaneously at a national youth tournament in Bozhurishte.

Dimitar Kalchev also plays indoor volleyball for the men’s team of his club Arda Kardzhali, but, like many of his teammates from the southern Bulgarian city known as the country’s biggest beach volleyball hatchery, is more drawn to the summer discipline of his favourite sport.  Despite his young age, the 17-year-old has been around Bulgaria’s sand courts for quite some time now, having piled up a number of honours at national youth level.

“It is a great feeling to be victorious in the name of Bulgaria,” exclaimed the 17-year-old Dimitar referring to the fairy tale performances in Moscow and Molodechno.  “It is indescribable!  The responsibility is really huge and each victory motivates you to move forward even further.  Despite these achievements, we have a lot of work to do ahead of us.  Last summer was just the beginning.  We showed our potential, now we need to develop it.  We really want to perform well in Antalya and qualify for the Youth Olympics in China and we will do our best to achieve it.”

The question now is how well Dimitar and Ivailo will get to know each other as new partners on the sand, whether or not they will be able to build on last year’s team’s success.  The answer may come as soon as this week, as the decisive final stage of the inaugural Youth Continental Cup kicks off on Thursday.

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