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Russian “player factory” dominates the volleyball world

Russia's gold winning streak started last year with Olympic gold in London. Since then the country has gone on to win three more titles in the sport this year.

Lausanne, Switzerland, September 3, 2013 - The world of men’s volleyball is currently dominated by Russia and that could remain the case for quite a while.

Victory at the U21 World Championship was the latest in a series of titles for the giant country, which began in earnest with gold at the 2012 Olympic Games, when the Russian men fought back spectacularly from 0-2 down to triumph 3-2 against Brazil, fending off match points on the way. This year, the U19 squad also won World Championship gold and the men picked up their third World League title in a row.

Victory in the World League came courtesy of a 3-0 win against Brazil – a scoreline that repeated itself in the final of the U21 World Championship. If it wasn’t already clear, there can no longer be any doubt that there has been a shift in power on the volleyball scene. “Russia is a 'player factory'. We have good players but they are better. “The Russians are the best in the world at the moment,” admitted legendary Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende after the World League final.

And his belief was confirmed once again. The promotion of talented juniors in Russia is as exceptional as the players’ desire to succeed. “Russia beat Brazil at the Olympics and in the World League. So we had to do it today,” said Russia’s captain Egor Feoktistov after the U21 World Championship triumph. This was the ninth title for Russia and its predecessor the Soviet Union at the competition, which was being staged for the 17th time. The Russians suffered only one defeat throughout the entire tournament – in the group stage against eventual bronze medallists Italy.

Victor Poletaev, who scored 151 points over the course of the tournament, was named Most Valuable Player (MVP). He had also been part of the Russian team that won gold at the U19 World Championship. The MVP on that occasion was Pavel Pankov, a genial setter who once again ran the show on his way to a second gold medal within eight weeks.

His story is characteristic of the secret to Russia’s success. “He has been learning how to play volleyball since he was a little kid of four years old, because everyone in his family plays the game. His father played, his mother was an Olympic gold medallist and his sister is the setter in the women’s national team,” said his coach Alexander Karikov. “He is a very smart young man with an overall ability for the game.”

There are a lot of smart young men in Russia, where school education is combined perfectly with sport. And if this year’s track record is anything to go by, Russia’s flood of titles is set to continue as they will also take part in the U23 World Championship that will be held for first time from October 9 to 17.

Interestingly, the hosts will be the country on the receiving end of the Russian revolution so often recently: arch rivals Brazil.

Can Russia go the extra mile this year and attain yet another gold medal? We can only wait and see.

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