Wilfredo Leon - the next star of world Volleyball
Singapore, Singapore, August 26, 2010 - The Volleyball competition at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games was held from August 21-25. Here, one of two FIVB Young Writers 4 Young Players. Cecilia Mussi, from Italy, keeps you up with the play with what happened during the Volleyball competition at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games both on and off the court.
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August 26, 2010
The tournament is over. Today we saw the two finals for the golden medal, and Belgium and Cuba were winners of the first Youth Olympic Games. The matches were really wonderful, and all the people come to the Toa Payoh Sports Hall saw a great show all morning long. Belgium took their revenge against USA, winning 3-1. The captain of USA couldn’t stop the tears during the press conference after the match, because of the disappointment, but that’s part of this beautiful game, you can never say who is going to win.
The other final was between Argentina and Cuba, and it was a repeat of a previous match finished with the victory of Cuba 3-0. Today the result was 3-1 but the winner was the same. Argentina tried with all their strength to defeat Cuba, but as the Argentina coach said, “We haven’t a player like Wilfredo Leon, and this was the biggest difference between the teams, I think.” The last picture I took from this tournament was the one with Leonardo Plaza, the setter of Argentina, crying desperately after the match, because one of the last points of Cuba was his mistake. These guys seem to be strong and experienced, but in this case you can really understand that they are still young and with a huge will to win.
The Volleyball competition was the last one of these first Youth Olympic Games, and after that we went to the Closing Ceremony in the beautiful Float in Marina Bay. The event was sold out and the first impression on entering was spectacular; a big stage on the sea with the skyscrapers on the back and the crowd shouting on their seats. The Olympic Flame was turned off, but “this is only the beginning, now you can tell everybody that you have been to these first ever Youth Olympic Games” Mr. Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC said. And I can say that I am really honored to have been here!!
Today at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall we saw the matches for 5th place and for the bronze medal. We are close to the end now, and so the matches are better and better. The first result went 3-0 for Iran against DR Congo, but at the end of the match everybody was happy, even the boys from Congo, because they knew that it would have been hard, and so they tried to do their best, but it was no enough. After boys was the turn of girls: Singapore against Egypt finished 3-1 to Egypt, but in this case, too, the host team faced with the better skills of their opponents played hard and won their first set of the competition.
In the afternoon Peru was the first team awarded at these Youth Olympic Games with the bronze medal. The girls recovered after the loss in the semifinal against Belgium and did their best against Japan to take the third place. It was a spectacular match with a lot of rebounds during the challenges, thanks to the best defense of the tournament played by Japan.
After this match boys played their first final for the bronze: Russia against Serbia, once again, I can say, because on Sunday the same match already took place in the Tao Payoh Sports Hall. As the previous one, Russia won 3-0, but today the prize was higher, and that’s why at the end of the match Russia celebrated a lot with their fans from Russia seated in the venue with the national flag.
So, tomorrow we are going to know who are the best teams of these Youth Olympic Games, one between Belgium or USA for girls and one of Argentina and Cuba for men. Can’t wait!!
Last matches for men’s and girls’ tournament today. The names of the finalist are: Belgium and USA for girls and Argentina vs Cuba for men’s. I saw just the last two semifinals in the afternoon because this morning I went to the Island Adventure, an island near Singapore where some athletes can have fun with different activities that show the characteristics of a good sportsman; courage, strength, respect, for example. It was interesting because all the boys and girls were together not to compete but just to do something as normal teenagers. Some of them told me that it was the first time in such a place, and they really enjoyed it.
After this “break” from Volleyball, I came back to the Toa Payoh Sports Hall and saw the semifinals between Cuba and Serbia, a gorgeous match finished 3-0 to Cuba but with a lot of great and fun challenges. After that USA against Japan. The Asiatic girls showed all their best with an endless defense, but the tall girls from USA were at another level, not only of height, but they remained focused on the victory during the whole match, and at the end they took it.
Tomorrow will see the start of the last round of competition; in the morning the matches for the fifth place, and in the afternoon for the bronze medal. I think they are going to be wonderful matches because every team now wants to win, it doesn’t matter which position of the ranking will be!
It is the last day of the preliminary round, yet we couldn’t have asked for a better day with semifinal spots on the line. The atmosphere is electric, everyone is here to have fun but also knowing that a win today could confirm a place in the last four. The spirit of the Youth Olympic Games was summed up by DR Congo coach Jean Claude Kinsama Eanga, who said after his team played Russia, that he knew it would have been impossible to win, but it was the experience for his players in such a big competition that counts. After the press conference another fun thing happened to me: Patrick Tshibangu Tshanga of DR Congo asked me where he could find the interview I made with him yesterday, and I told him it was everything on the FIVB web site. He stared at me and asked it again because he couldn’t believe that it was true!
The girls matches followed and after Peru’s solid win over Japan, it was up to USA to break Egypt hearts. It was the second time I saw the Egyptian girls playing, most of them with the head-dress, long sleeved t-shirt and pants, too. They were weeping all the time because of that, and today one fainted after the end of the match, maybe because adding to that she hadn’t eat anything since this morning because of Ramadan time.
The last match of the day, as usual, was the best one: Iran vs Cuba, which decided the last standings of boys’ tournament. It was a long match, won by Cuba 3-1, but the result can’t express the great time they let us spend watching wonderful challenges, unbelievable strength and so on. At the sound of the final whistle almost all the Iran players were crying. In the Mixed Zone their coach Naser Shahnazi couldn’t stop the tears while in interview, he felt so involved in his job and counted a lot on his players, but maybe this was not their moment. Tomorrow there will be the semifinals of girls’ and mens’ tournaments and what’s a stake is a place in the final for the gold medal in these 1st Youth Olympic Games. Hold on to your hats!
Second day of the tournament and today we started with a girls’ match between Singapore and Japan, that means a lot of people in the Hall even it was 10 in the morning. After that it’s show time with the two tallest teams of the men’s tournament, Serbia and Russia. Yesterday Serbia showed confidence against Congo, but today it was another story against the giant boys from Russia. The match lasted only after three sets, but the crowd enjoyed it very, very much. It was like you were watching a professional match, not a junior one!!
In the afternoon the second men’s match, all the South American style came to life in this sparkling match between Argentina and Cuba. The leaping and strength from both teams was amazing, but I have to talk about the star of this match, Wilfredo Leon from Cuba, 201cm of pure talent. His jumps are so high and his technique so perfect that it’s almost unbelievable he is only 16 years old!! And to think he has played for the senior side in the last two World Leagues…..incredible!
The last and best match of the day, saw a fantastic five-set thriller between the Belgium and USA girls. USA edged it but Belgium were impressive, especially setter and captain Ilka van de Vyver and Laura Herman but on the other side of the net there was Elizabeth McMahon, 1.98m tall and explosive, who led her team to the final victory.
Tomorrow will be the last one to decide the future of some of the teams, can’t wait!
It’s match time in the Toa Payoh Sports Hall for both the girls’ and boys’ tournaments. What a great feeling, the start of competition. All these athletes here after months of training, finally about to compete in their dream event.
First match was pretty one way traffic with Serbia too good for RD Congo but wow, what athletes and so strong at such a young age. The Boys’ Youth World Champions of 2009 played with two setters, like in mini volley, which was very innovative. Singapore v Peru was similar with the little girls from Singapore trying strongly to defend but on the other side of the net there were six tough, tall and excited girls who wanted to obtain their first victory in these Youth Olympic Games.
In the afternoon it was the turn of Belgium and Egypt, for girls again. A sparkling match with plenty of technique. Unfortunately Yasmin Hussein hurt an ankle and that was the end of her first match. And last but not least, the best match of the day. The physical strength of Argentina and Iran was amazing. Argentina is not very tall but they jump so, so high, especially the setter, only 1.86m tall, who even managed to block the incredible Ahmadi Shahab, who stands at 2.08m!!
August 20We took our first glimpse of the Toa Payoh Sports Hall, the Volleyball venue, for the FIVB inspection. I think it is a great place for the fans because they will be very close to their champions, but it won’t be the same for the boys playing, because the ceiling is very short! I asked about that to a referee and he told me that it is ok for a competition like that, but it wouldn’t be for a professional one. Then we saw the press room and the press conference room, where we are going to spend our next seven days working. Cool! Highlight of the day had to be the interview with Ms. Feng Kun, the Athlete Role Model. I couldn’t expect she is so nice. She talked about her past, what she is doing now, what she thinks about the game, and after a couple of hours I feel very comfortable with her! She is a legend.
What a fantastic day. Managed to interview four-time Olympian, two-time Olympic champion and Olympic bronze medalist Yumilka Ruiz of Cuba, who is now an IOC member. She was very nice and funny, so the FIVB photographer, Conny, took a lot of pictures with her! Stand by for her corresponding interview as well as for tomorrow. I will get an interview with the Athlete Role Model of Volleyball Mrs. Feng Kun of China. I'm really excited about that!!
Highlight of the day had to be the Preliminary Enquiry where it was a great chance to meet all the athletes, coaches and key figures. Great interview material but while I had my first meeting with some of the coaches and everyone was glad to be here - they said that everything is good, the people, the Village, the food - none of them told me that they are going to win because the other teams are good also!
After an afternoon spent in the Olympic Village, walking around and seeing how it works, you can really feel the Olympic mood; everybody is going around chatting with people from all over the world, taking pictures, laughing and playing in the stands that represent all the countries involved in the YOG. Seth did a great piece with the USA team which you can see here
The first impressions of the YOG are very good: A lot of people working as volunteers, everybody very kind with you, always smiling!! A visit to some of the other sports – basketball, diving - were great. Looking out from the bus I’ve been really surprised about the city: skyscrapers everywhere but so many parks, indeed.
Cecilia is 21 years of age from Milan, Italy and after her first love Volleyball she is a keen fan of horses.