Few athletes can say that they have made history, but for
Venezuelan beach volleyball duo Igor Hernandez and Jesus
Villafañe that is something that they can definitely lay claim to.
When they qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games with a win
over Chile in the South American leg of the Continental Cup, they
became the first beach volleyball team from their country to qualify
for the Olympic Games. Their qualification capped a number of years
of sacrifice and time spent away from their families in pursuit of their
sporting dream.
At 35 and a father of two, Hernandez is the senior partner. He has been
on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour since 2000. “I cannot define what
volleyball means to me,” he says. “Through this sport I have achieved
everything I have in my life. I have dedicated many hours and years to it,
because it is something that runs through my veins.
“I spend a lot of time travelling and training, so I try to be with my
children on my days off,” he said. “It is the most difficult thing in the life
of an athlete, being away from them, because they are my engine for
work every day. I speak daily with them before and after training, when
they get up and before going to bed.”
Villafañe is continuing a strong family tradition. The 25-year-old’s mother,
Vilma, used to play for the Venezuelan volleyball team and continues to
play on the national masters’ circuit. Her son has been seen as one of the
up and coming stars of the sport there since 2006, when he played in the
FIVB Junior World Championships.
Venezuela draw a
line in the sand
Igor Hernandez up against Richard Schuil of
the Netherlands in their opening match
Jesus Villafañe stoops to receive