WOG2008 Home
GO to Men
Press Releases
Previous Editions

FIVB Women's Olympic Games 2008

Press releases

Eugenio George Lafita, the Volleyball guru, still fighting for the gold

Eugenio George Lafita, Cuban assistant coach, looks ahead for another Olympic Medal

Beijing, China, August 18, 2008 - George Eugenio Lafita is 75. He’s the man behind the Cuban Women’s Volleyball team, the brain that since 1969 has guided training programs and matches. After 2000, he decided to step aside during the matches and act only as Assistant Coach. Everyone knows that he and Head Coach Antonio Perdomo act as one, carefully dividing up responsibilities during the game. And Eugenio Lafita is still a leader.


Lafita was a spiker for the Cuban Volleyball team from 1956. 1n 1963 he started coaching the Men’s team in Cuba, leading them in the World Championship in Prague in 1966. In 1969 he became Technical Director of the Women’s Volleyball team and he’s still there as Technical Director of the entire Women’s Volleyball section in the Cuban Federation. After matches, he’s the person in charge of supervising training and preparing the team’s programs.


Even though he’s been attending Olympic Games since Munich 1972, he does not think about retirement. “It’s not the time. And I know that when I will be tired, I will still teach, even in the smallest school in Cuba. I will still teach Volleyball. That’s what I made all my life, that’s what I want to do. My wife Graciela passed away last year but we’ve done the same job for our entire lives, she was an FIVB instructor and we shared the same passion.”


In the training center in Havana, the net during Cuban Women’s training is always set the same as for Men’s matches: 2 meters and 43 centimeters. The official net height for Women is 2.24. The Cubans learn from when they are juniors to climb the sky, so when they play the real game they get their bellies over the net. They have learned to fly, especially the not-so-tall players such as Mireya Luis (who’s now one of the team leaders as manager) or team captain Yumilka Ruiz, who’s only 1.79. “We put the net also to 2.50, and the girls still can spike. Training strength is one of our secrets: strength is everything, it gives you high jump and velocity,” says Eugenio Lafita.


He now sits silent on the bench. When he decides to give some hints to the girls during a time out even Perdomo listens. Eugenio, as everyone calls him, is a real leader. “Our Volleyball is a school, that’s our secret. It’s a continuous flux of athletes, since they are 12 we prepare them to arrive at the top, working hard, especially developing their physical skills. The athletic preparation is what we’ve worked on more. In 1970 we decided to start a new program. We went to the World Championship in Bulgaria to study the best teams. We started to build a new team from the base; we wanted to win something important in eight years. In 1974 we were already among the best teams, in 1977 we won the silver at the World Cup, in 1978 we won the World Championship in Russia. It is still the biggest memory of my life. It was a dream: a little country like Cuba changed Volleyball history.”


While the other teams use a lot of technology to beat opponents (statistics, computers linked via Wi-Fi, radio connections with the bench to study the opponent’s changes in blocking), Eugenio Lafita’s system is still based on sweat. Training, training, training, even eight hours a day, Saturday included. Thanks to this hard work Eugenio Lafita managed to win a lot of gold medals: the 1978 World Championship, 1992 Olympic Games, 1994 World Championship, 1996 Olympic Games, 1998 World Championship, 1999 World Cup, 2000 Olympic Games, 2000 World Grand Prix.


He’s not the kind of coach who makes proclamations. He thinks, and then he acts. It happened years ago before a match in the World Cup. He called aside Taismary Aguero: “Try the jump serve,” he said. She had never tried it, but he was sure she already had that skill. A few words to trigger one of the most powerful services in women’s Volleyball.


He’s got intuition. Like when he called the 15-year-old Nancy Carrillo up for the Senior Team. “Are you sure?” asked the journalists and Cuban managers. “I know what I’m doing,” he simply answered. He knew. As usual.


Luis was one of the stars of the team. She quit Volleyball in 2000 after the Sydney Games but she’s still with the team as Director of International Relations for the Cuban Volleyball Federation, while also an IOC Athlete Commission member. “Eugenio is like a father for me,” says Luis. “Together with my parents, he taught me a lot. Not only sport lessons, he’s a teacher in life. He built me as an athlete and we had fantastic time together. He’s also an incredible person. He seems so calm, but you should see him when he loses his patience. Ha can be incredible. Once we were playing against USA. He told us to be careful to a specific call form the USA, which was a particular fake, we had to catch that ball. After half of the match we heard that call many times, but it seemed like we were deaf, because we did not save even one single ball. So he called a time out. And, to our enormous surprise, he talked to us in … English.”


“I think Volleyball is a wonderful sport,” says Eugenio Lafita, “and the key to my life is to educate. Through this sport I did not only make training or won medals, I worked on social development, education, entertainment.”


The Cuban Volleyball guru is still sitting on the bench. Educating girls on how to go for a fourth Olympic gold.


More press releases
28.08.2008 Brazilian Women celebrate Olympic gold-medal triumph with thousands of fans during traditional victory parade in Sao Paulo  
23.08.2008 Brazilian Women win gold in style as they drop just one set throughout Olympic Volleyball Tournament; Paula Pequeno is MVP  
23.08.2008 Brazilian Women claim Olympic gold for first time with victory over USA  
21.08.2008 USA and Brazil advance to Women’s Olympic Volleyball Tournament gold-medal match in Beijing  
21.08.2008 Emotional Americans make Women’s Volleyball final for first time since Los Angeles 1984  
20.08.2008 FIVB President Acosta’s expectations for success met as Volleyball posts spectacular television ratings during Olympic Games  
20.08.2008 China in path of Brazilian juggernaut but Chen stays positive  
19.08.2008 Cuba, Brazil, China, USA advance to semi-finals of Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing  
17.08.2008 Quarter Finals decided for Women’s Olympic Tournament after drawing of lots  
17.08.2008 Cuba, USA, China, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Russia win on final day of Preliminary Rounds in Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament  
15.08.2008 FIVB President Acosta joined by President of People's Republic of China Hu Jingtao at China-USA match  
15.08.2008 Aguero's sad smile  
13.08.2008 Brazil, Italy, Russia, USA, Cuba, Japan claim wins on third day of Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing  
13.08.2008 Three and easy for Brazil as win over Serbia has Guimaraes purring  
13.08.2008 Lang: My Chinese experience will count for nothing on Friday  
13.08.2008 Zahorcova, Jirakakul become first women referees to officiate Olympic match together  
12.08.2008 Two women referees set to officiate Olympic Volleyball match for first time ever  
11.08.2008 Brazil, Cuba, Serbia, Italy, China, Japan earn victories on second day of Women’s Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing  
11.08.2008 Caprara calls for Russian response after second Olympic defeat  
11.08.2008 Aguero returns for Italy in win over Kazakhstan  
09.08.2008 Italy, Serbia, Brazil, Cuba, China, USA Women’s teams claim victories as Olympic Volleyball Tournament action begins in Beijing  
08.08.2008 Head Coaches gather to preview Olympic Volleyball Tournaments at press conference  
07.08.2008 Aguero flies to Cuba to visit sick mother; Italian Women’s player set to miss at least three pool games  
06.08.2008 All 24 Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Head Coaches set to attend official FIVB press conference Friday  
06.08.2008 Superstar Lang walks down Memory Lane as USA Women get used to 'Jennymania'  
05.08.2008 Venezuela vows to fight against China at Beijing Games  
04.08.2008 Russia beats China 3-1 in Olympic Volleyball warm-up  
25.07.2008 China announces Men's and Women's players for Beijing Olympics  
11.06.2008 Preliminary match order completed for Olympic Volleyball Tournaments after Drawing of Lots in Beijing  
11.06.2008 Drawing of Lots for Beijing Olympic Volleyball Tournaments Held in Beijing  
11.06.2008 Drawing of Lots for Beijing Olympic Volleyball Tournaments Held in Beijing  
10.06.2008 Olympic Volleyball Tournaments' Drawing of Lots in Beijing set for Wednesday  
07.05.2008 Olympic Volleyball and Beach Volleyball tickets sell out months ahead of Beijing 2008  
30.04.2008 Cuban Women aiming for the gold in Beijing  
28.04.2008 Athletes passionately express their feelings on Beijing 2008  
22.04.2008 FIVB First Executive Vice-President Wei praises Beijing Games' preparations  
17.04.2008 FIVB First Executive Vice-President Wei hails ongoing Beijing test event, reserves special praise for Wongprasert  
16.04.2008 China Club Volleyball Tournament tests Olympic Volleyball venues  
14.04.2008 'Good Luck Beijing' official test event approaches ahead of Olympic Games Volleyball Tournaments  
07.04.2008 Thailand Women set for Turkey trip ahead of Olympic qualifying tournament  
03.04.2008 USA Women finish China tour with 5-3 record  
02.04.2008 FIVB confirms match schedule for Women’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo  
01.04.2008 “Jenny” Lang Ping set to join Gabriella Kotsis in elite group of Women Olympic Volleyball coaches  
31.03.2008 38 referees (32 Men, 6 Women) from 26 countries finally confirmed to officiate Volleyball and Beach Volleyball at the Beijing Olympic Games  
18.03.2008 Lang Ping leads USA Women on tour of China  
15.03.2008 Algeria Women start Olympic Games preparations  
03.03.2008 Chinese Women's team sweeps six-game friendly series against Cuba  
02.03.2008 Chinese win again as injured aces return to boost Olympic chances  
01.03.2008 Chinese Women's team claims fourth straight win over Cuba  
27.02.2008 Cuba puts up strong challenge against China in women's friendly series  
26.02.2008 China's Women Volleyballers claim second win over Cuba  
25.02.2008 China wins first match of Women's friendly series against Cuba  
22.02.2008 China, Cuba Women's teams to play six preparation matches before Olympics  
18.02.2008 Puerto Rico names Cardona as Women's team advisor ahead of WOQT  
15.02.2008 Cuban Women’s team with heavy agenda  
15.02.2008 Light at the end of the tunnel for Dominican team  
11.02.2008 Women’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament: Puerto Rico Women’s team to compete in May for a place in Beijing  
11.02.2008 Torneo Mundial de Clasificación Olímpica: Equipo femenino de Puerto Rico a competir en mayo por un puesto en Beijing  
27.01.2008 Women’s African Qualifications, Day 5: Algeria to Beijing, Kenya second and Cameroon third  
26.01.2008 Women’s African Qualifications, Day 4: Algeria Women clinched the Olympic ticket  
25.01.2008 Women’s African Olympic Qualification, Day 3: Algeria one more step towards Beijing  
24.01.2008 Women’s African Olympic Qualification: Algeria defeated Kenya in early final  
23.01.2008 Women’s African Olympic qualifications: Day 1  
20.01.2008 Women’s European Olympic Qualification: Russia beat Poland in extremis and go to Beijing 2008  
19.01.2008 Women’s European Olympic Qualification: Poland to face Russia in Sunday’s final  
17.01.2008 European Women's Olympic Qualification: Turkey sensationally outclassed Nederland  
16.01.2008 European Women's Olympic Qualification: Poland edge host Germany in five-set thriller  
15.01.2008 European Women's Olympic Qualification: Poland, Germany and Romania start off with victories  
13.01.2008 Women’s African Olympic Qualifications: Algeria Women ready to compete for the African Slot  
08.01.2008 A big time for Venezuela: first Olympic berth also for Women’s team, after the Men’s South American Olympic Qualification victory  
07.01.2008 Peru and Paraguay found the triumph in the South American Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament  
07.01.2008 Peru y Paraguay encontraron el triunfo en la cuarta jornada del Preolimpico Sudamericano Femenino  
06.01.2008 Victory of the favorites on the third date of the South-American Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament  
05.01.2008 Uruguay and Venezuela won on the second date of the South American Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament  
05.01.2008 Uruguay and Venezuela won on the second date of the South American Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament  
05.01.2008 The begining of the South-American Women's Olimpic Qualification  
24.12.2007 China announces Women Volleyball roster in preparing for Olympics  
23.12.2007 Norceca Women's Olympic Qualification: Cuba to the Olympics for eighth time  
22.12.2007 Norceca Women's Olympic Qualification: Canada blanked Dominican Republic and will meet Cuba in the final  
21.12.2007 Norceca Women's Olympic Qualification: Puerto Rico and Canada complete the list of semi finalists  
20.12.2007 Norceca Women's Olympic Qualification: Cuba and Dominican Republic won their pools  
19.12.2007 Norceca Women's Olympic Qualification: Canada edged Puerto Rico in five sets  
18.12.2007 Olympic Qualification: Cuba started with a victory over Canada  
17.12.2007 Olympic Qualification: Cuba is the heavy favourite to win in Norceca  
11.12.2007 China’s Volleyball Official and Head Coach on Women Volleyball in 2008 Olympics  
10.12.2007 Renovation of the Olympic Volleyball Venue completed  
10.12.2007 The road to Beijing: after the FIVB World Cup, the second step begins. The Continental Olympic Qualification tournaments to start next week  
07.12.2007 The road to Beijing: after the FIVB World Cup, the second step begins. The Continental Olympic Qualification tournaments to start next week