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Beach volleyball’s Olympic pioneer

Barbra Fontana (center) feels the "love" from her USA Beach Volleyball athletes Skylar Caputo (left) and Susannah Muno

Nanjing, China, August 20, 2014 - Barbra Fontana is known as the pioneer of Olympic beach volleyball.

When beach volleyball made its debut as an official Olympic sport in 1996, she played for the United States.

This year, as beach volleyball is played for the first time at the Youth Olympic Games, Fontana is on the sand as the coach the United States squad.

“I have been at the right place at the right time,” Fontana said during an interview in the Youth Olympic Village.

Coaching has come naturally to Fontana. Upon retiring, she helped coach Jen Kessy and April Ross, who won the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“I love coaching,” Fontana said. “It gives me an opportunity to pass along the knowledge and experience I have.”

In Nanjing, Fontana is passing along her knowledge and experience to two talented players from Southern California. Skylar Caputo has committed to playing sand volleyball collegiately at Pepperdine University. Zana Muno has committed to playing both indoor and sand volleyball at UCLA.

Caputo and Muno have gotten used to hearing Fontana repeat her favorite phrase.

“She always says, ‘fire in the belly,’” Muno said. “She has taught us to fight no matter what.”

Fontana does more than just show her players how to play on the sand.

“She is a great role model,” Caputo said. “She makes sure we play and act the right way since we are representing our country.”

Team USA is playing in Pool A, which features beach volleyball powerhouses Brazil, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Caputo and Muno had limited time to practice together before the tournament, and they are still learning developing chemistry.

“With the youth players, it’s all about being consistent,” Fontana said. “If they can get into their rhythm and play at the highest level, we will do well.”

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