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Stars to watch in Beijing: Russian wing spiker Pavel Abramov

Pavel Abramov (centre) celebrates with his Russian teammates

Lausanne, March 27, 2008 - Pavel Abramov is expected to be one of the shining stars for the Russian Menís National Team at the Beijing Olympic Games in August. He is a wing spiker for his country and was part of the team that won the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Games and the silver medal at the 2007 European Championships. A fluent English speaker who plays his Club Volleyball for Russian team Iskra, Abramov gave an absorbing interview with Italian Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi as part of the Italian's "Follow Me" blog at the 2007 World Cup in Japan.

Andrea Zorzi: When were you born?
Pavel Abramov: I was born in Moscow on the 23rd April, 1979.

When did you start playing Volleyball?
I started to play Volleyball when I was 11, I think.

... you were very young.
Yes, but it is usual situation in Russia.

Why did you choose Volleyball?
You know, I started playing Volleyball just by chance because I was studying in a usual school and the coach one day came to our school, asked the class to stand up and I was one of the tallest guys in the class. So several guys and several girls got the invitation to the Volleyball practice, so thatís how I started playing.

At that time, did you like Volleyball?
Maybe not pretty much from the beginning because it was hard for me to study and to play because after school I had to go to the practices and sometimes it was difficult for me. I got tired.

Do you like any other sports?
Right now, I donít think so. I like Beach Volleyball, I like ping pong, but not like Volleyball.

Did you play other sports?
I played basketball in my school and even at the beginning of university. My father was a soccer player so I was playing soccer from my childhood but one day he told me that soccer is not my kind of sport. Yes, too tall, too long legs. He saw that I would not be a good soccer player.

Could you tell me more about your career?
First, like a usual guy in Russia, I was playing in a sports school, championships of Moscow for my age, going, going, going and going and I didnít know whether I will play professionally or not. After school, and maybe in the last years of my school, I entered my first professional team. I was very lucky, the coach was Radian, I think one of the most famous and one of the best coaches in Russia.

What is the name of your first club?
The name is very difficult, itís MGFSO. But we played in a second league, after that in the first league and after that in the high league, and only after did I come to the Super League.

Could you compare the old Soviet Union and modern Russian Volleyball?
Yeah I can compare. You know, I think I am the modern generation of sportsman, of Volleyball player. But I know something about the last generation of Volleyball players. Now it is more professional, we earn good money with Volleyball. Before in the Soviet Union, players did not have an opportunity to earn money. So they played for their country but as far as I heard there was a lot of drinking and some maybe not professional behaviour. But anyway, the Soviet Union was one of the strongest teams in the world.

Did you have the opportunity to meet the old players?
Yeah, personally I donít have friends from that group of players because itís a different generation but yeah, I know some players (who are) maybe not so old. For example, (Rouslan) Olikhver, he was playing in the Soviet Union. You know this player, he was very good. And before then, I didnít have an opportunity to meet (anyone).

Is there anything you donít like in Russia?
I donít believe that we have a democracy in Russia. Nowadays. I donít like this, pretty much.

Have you played abroad?
Yes, I played in Japan. Only in Japan. I think the Japanese League, now the level is lower than in Russia and Italy. But at that time, when I left the Russian championship it was not so strong, I went to Japan, I won two gold medals and I really enjoyed playing there.

You speak very good English.
From my school years I was studying with an individual teacher, for many years.

You have a daughter.
She is very young. On the 24th November (2007) she will be three months. Yes, she was born on 24th August.

Who is your favourite player?
I was never a big fan of some player but when I was playing in the junior Russian team we used to watch videos of the Italian championship and I saw an outside hitter, Samuele Papi playing, Lorenzo Barnardi, Andrea Giani (all Italian) Ö maybe I liked Papi more.

Which is the most important victory of your career?
I think it is the gold medal of the World League 2002 for the Russian team.

The Russian team is wasting opportunities at the moment. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree. We are trying to change something. The team is trying to find the right coach, something else, but I think this is not about the coach, but about us. So, all we have to do is work hard, then we have a chance to win.

Russian players seem to play without emotion.
Russians are Russians. We have a special mentality and a special climate, you know all this, and sometimes we play without passion. But I believe that we cannot play good without passion. Maybe some players can, maybe (Semen) Poltavskiy can because he is this kind of guy, but for me it is difficult to play without passion. So, when there are no people watching the match it is always difficult to play, but with people it is always possible to show your passion, to enjoy the game and to play good and to show good play.

What is your worst defeat?
I remember I was very disappointed when we lost 3-2 in the World Championships 2002, but after that I became stronger and when we lost with Poland in the last World Championships (2006) and with Italy before in 2005 in the European Championship, yeah, I was disappointed, itís always disappointing when you lose, in the Final, 3-2 especially, but I try not to take it to heart and go on and improve.

What are the best skills your team possesses?
Serve and spiking, everyone knows that, and blocking.

Ö but Ö
Itís impossible to win any competition without a good defence, for example, but as far as I understand we are continuing to serve better and spike better and block better but right now I think we donít pay enough attention to defence.

Do you have any dreams?
My dream is to get as many gold medals as I can for the national team and in the Russian championship. Maybe I will go to the Italian championship and my goal is to take the gold.

How do you spend your spare time away from Volleyball?
With my wife and my daughter, almost all the time, because it is the biggest part of my heart. Volleyball takes up most of may time but my biggest feeling is for my family.

Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I am very fond of music. I am always listening to music and at my place Iím trying to set up a high quality stereo system.

Who is your favourite singer?
It always changes and it depends where I am listening to the music. In my apartment in Moscow almost all the time it is classical music because right now we have a baby, so it is classical and jazz. Now I have become a fan of New Run, a punk rock group, so now I am listening to that.

Watch the full video interview between Zorzi and Abramov along with a host of other one-on-ones conducted by Zorzi at the FIVB 2007 World Cup at:

Zorzi is one of the worldís most famous Volleyball players. In a glittering career, he won two World Championships with the Italian national team in 1990 and 1994 along with the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the FIVB named Zorzi the Worldís Best Player in 1991. Now retired from competitive Volleyball, Zorzi works with the FIVB as a freelance journalist and technical commentator. During the 2008 World League and World Grand Prix and this summerís Beijing Olympic Games, Zorzi will talk to the worldís best Volleyball players and coaches. Watch out for more fascinating Zorzi interviews in the coming months.



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