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Colombia’s Martinez: We want to be the best in South America!

 
Outside hitter Margarita Martinez is confident about the future of the Colombian national team
Lausanne, Switzerland, July 10, 2020 – Brazil, Argentina and Peru have traditionally been the strongest women’s national teams in South America when it comes to volleyball, but Margarita Martinez says Colombia would like to change that soon.

The 25-year-old outside hitter is pleased with the country’s recent progress at the continental level and has revealed that Las Cafeteras (the coffee makers, in Spanish), currently ranked 19th in the world, have an ambitious plan to get to the top of South American volleyball.

The idea is headed by Brazilian coach Antonio Rizola, who took over at the end of 2016 after a long and storied career working with his country’s Youth and Junior national teams for over 15 years. 

“Maybe it doesn’t look realistic to others, but our goal is to be the best team in South America,” the outside hitter said in an interview with Puro Voley. “When we first met Rizola, he asked if we thought we could ever beat Brazil. No one knew how to answer and he said that if we didn’t believed we could, he was in the wrong place. Every day training with him, we see that when we work hard things happen in our favour, so why shouldn’t we have this kind of ambition?”

Head coach Antonio Rizola has brought a new mentality to Colombia's national team

The Colombians have demonstrated encouraging signs of progress since Rizola’s arrival. Despite claiming some of their best results at the international level, including a second place finish at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup and ranking 19th at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix the year before, it was on their continent that the Colombians turned the most heads.

The young team won the South American Games in 2018 and secured silver medals in back-to-back editions of the South American Championship in 2017 and 2019. It was, however, the silver medal they won at the 2019 Pan-American Games, when they beat Brazil in the semifinals, that has cemented their position over Peru and in close contention with Argentina for the spot of second best team in South America.

“The change of mentality he brought has been a difference-maker for us,” Martinez, who has spent her entire playing career in France, reflected. “He gave us a lot of confidence and support to work and pursue our goals. We obviously improved technically and tactically with him too, but the mental aspect was what had the most impact. In the past, when we went to play Argentina or Peru we truly didn’t believe we could beat them because of the history these countries have in volleyball. But that has changed now. We know that we can write our own history.”


And Martinez knows exactly how she wants the next chapters of that history to look. To achieve the goal of dominating South America, the Colombians know very well they will need to take their game to the next level on the international scene.

The team missed qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, but has already shifted gears and is focused on the next steps of their process, which includes taking part in the most important events of the upcoming cycle that will lead to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“It will be a long road to Paris,” she acknowledged. “The best way for us to keep growing and get there is to play in the major tournaments. To qualify for the World Championships or to play in the Volleyball Nations League for the first time and face the best teams in the world would be a dream. The goal is to always do better than we already did. We didn’t think we could win a medal in our first Pan-American Games in several years... and we did it. So nothing is out of reach if we commit and work hard.”


The Colombians got really close to their first Olympic appearance in January, when Bogota hosted the South American qualification tournament that saw the hosts lose to Argentina in a hard-fought 3-1 match that postponed their dreams of competing at the Games.

The massive support they received from the home fans, who packed the stadium in Bogota for the three days of competition, and the country itself, with nation’s president Ivan Duque Marquez in the stands, showed they now represent more than just themselves every time they step on to the court.

“To see the arena completely packed and super loud was amazing,” Martinez said. “We always fought to have that level of support and attention from our country and now we have it. It comes with extra responsibility, but it’s also great motivation for us to chase better results. Our fans will always want more and more and we want to give it to them.”

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