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Newly-crowned European champs hope for World Tour success next

 
Tina Graudina & Anastasija Kravcenoka smile after their first win at the Moscow four-star
Moscow, Russia, August 15, 2019 – Tina Graudina & Anastasija Kravcenoka claimed the CEV European Championship title in Moscow last week. Although they are only 21 and 22 years old, respectively, these young Latvian athletes have already made a name for themselves on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and this continental crown is as logical as it is sensational.


“We weren’t specifically going for the gold. We kind of knew that we could do it, but it was never like a clear picture in our heads that that’s what we are going for. So it was nice to surprise ourselves,” Tina Graudina told fivb.com at the very same Luzhniki sports complex in the Russian capital, where they hammered out the biggest success of their careers so far last week and where they are competing in a four-star World Tour event this week.

“It’s magical! It’s unbelievable for us!” exclaimed Anastasija Kravcenoka. “We knew that we could win every game during the European Championship, but we didn’t believe in that so much. We were just focusing on each game and on each point and it worked.”


“We will try to do it here as well,” Tina added. “Our first game went pretty well, so I feel that we are still in the same motion as last week.”

They were indeed emphatic against China’s Chen Xue & Xinxin Wang, cruising to a speedy 2-0 (21-13, 21-11) victory in just 25 minutes of play in their first main draw game on Thursday, seemingly still riding on the momentum of last week’s triumph.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘momentum’. I would say that we just figured it out. I have just finally got the key to how to play well for ourselves,” Tina stated. “Let’s hope we will not lose the key, but I think we got the feeling right and we are going to keep it. We play better every year. Maybe this is just one step that we have taken this year. We are very happy about what we have achieved so far, but we have so much work ahead of us...”

Tina Graudina staying focused during the first game at the Moscow four-star

To those who know how talented Anastasija and Tina are it is even a bit surprising to look at their career stats and find out that they have never won a World Tour medal yet. They have played together internationally since 2013 and, in addition to this year’s European title, they have one gold and one silver medals from U22 European Championships and two silver medals from senior continental events to their name, but they have never reached the podium of an FIVB tournament as a team. They hope this will change soon, maybe even as soon as this week, or next month when they are set to compete in the main draw of the World Tour Finals in Rome.

“We always try to put up the best fight we can. Maybe that’s why the teams we play against take us seriously and know that they will not be able to just step on the court and easily beat us. But yes, so far we hadn’t had big wins, but that made us very hungry for this gold and now we are enjoying it.”

The European title has given Graudina & Kravcenoka a load of new confidence, but “it’s also the opposite - it feels a little bit awkward that people are noticing us a little bit more than usual,” as Graudina put it. “We are not used to this attention. I also liked it when we could just walk anywhere and nobody was looking at us.”


“Now that we gained 600 points from the European Championship, we are already in the main draw for Rome, in the 11th position. We had never been seeded so high before,” Kravcenoka got back on the positives. “I think it will be a very exclusive tournament and I look forward to it. We will continue the same way. We will fight for each game, for each win, and enjoy it. Our big goal is to start winning against the non-European teams.”

“We don’t know why, but we do feel a big difference when we play against non-Europeans. It’s different volleyball, I don’t know... Our coaches have to work on that for us,” Tina contemplated on why they have medalled only at continental events so far.

The young talents have more than one reason to look forward to the Finals in Rome, as neither of the two has ever been to the Eternal City.

“It’s like the highlight of my beach volleyball career to go to Rome, because even though we’ve travelled so much, I have never been to Italy. I would enjoy playing there, but I would also like to see and enjoy the culture. To be in such a city is going to be amazing. So I will have to try not to get too excited about what I see around me and focus on the game.”


The World Tour Finals are scheduled to take place at the Foro Italico in Rome from September 4 through 8.



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