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Europe’s volleyball stars shine on imperial stage at Hofburg Palace

CEV President André Meyer together with the Volleyball stars awarded on Friday night at the 2014 European Volleyball Gala in Vienna

Vienna, Austria, June 27, 2014 – The 2014 edition of the European Volleyball Gala was held on Friday night at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, marking a celebration of volleyball as well as its stars.

The gala had a muster of outstanding personalities, who were awarded on the stage of the former imperial residence in Austria’s capital city, in continuation of a tradition that was initiated last year.

“Though people come and go, there must be a moment where you review the past and award those who have left their mark on our sport playing or coaching at the highest level for a number of years,” CEV President André Meyer said while introducing the ceremony. “On the other hand, younger people are eager to follow in their footsteps and therefore tonight we will also celebrate some up-and-coming stars of our sport who, with their striking looks, skills and personality, will be the best asset we can rely on in order to get more and more youngsters involved in volleyball and beach volleyball.”

Nikolay Karpol (RUS) – Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to the development of women’s volleyball

The most successful women’s volleyball coach of all times, Karpol was a long-time head coach of the Soviet Union, and then of the Russian women’s national team, winning Olympic gold in 1980 and 1988, before claiming another three silver medals in 1992, 2000, and 2004.

Karpol was at the helm of the Soviet team that won gold at the 1990 World Championship in China; he is an 8-time gold medallist from the European Championships (1977, 1979, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2001). He has been the head coach of Russia’s volleyball powerhouse Uralochka Ekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk) for more than three decades, where he won the CEV Champions Cup eight times (1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1995).

Karpol was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2009. This year he made the final of the CEV Volleyball Cup – Women where Uralochka lost to Turkey’s Fenerbahce SK Istanbul.

“I have been coaching women’s teams for the past 45 years,” Karpol said. “Of course I have many memories from my victories at the Olympics, World and European Championships, but what makes me particularly proud is that all of the players I have mentored got married and had kids.”

Stefanie Schwaiger (AUT) – The Most Spectacular Beach Volleyball Player

The 27-year-old Stefanie Schwaiger was crowned Europe’s “Queen of the Beach” before 8,000 ecstatic fans at last year’s European Championship Final in Austria’s largest sandbox in Klagenfurt. Together with her sister Doris, Stefanie has formed one of the strongest and most consistent European duos of the past decade.

Only a few weeks ago Doris Schwaiger announced her intention to retire from competitive sport thereby bringing the partnership with Stefanie to an end. Doris and Stefanie kept their focus to win their last tournament together, the CEV Baden Masters in the outskirts of Vienna. Stefanie has announced she will continue her beach volleyball career with a new partner, with her ultimate goal being to participate in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“I still haven’t made up my mind but I am definitely looking for a new partner and of course one of my major goals for the future will be to deliver a strong performance at next year’s European Championship Final in Klagenfurt,” Stefanie said.

György Grozer (GER) – The Most Spectacular Volleyball Player – Men

The son of György Grozer Sr., a former member of Hungary’s national team and a leading figure in Germany’s Bundesliga in the 90s, Grozer debuted in the Champions League playing for VfB Friedrichshafen, before moving to Asseco Resovia Rzeszow and more recently to Belogorie Belgorod with whom he won the 2014 edition of the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League.

Grozer is one of the world’s most powerful players, and his serve can reach a speed of around 130kph. With arms like tree trunks, Grozer is also one of the players with the highest spike reach in the world at 3.74m. Last May, he won gold at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship in Brazil, thereby adding yet another title to his personal resume.

“We had a terrific season and finally my dream of winning the Champions League came true with Belogorie,” Grozer said. “Sometimes people wonder about the source of my power. Well, I’d say it comes from the heart, and this means it comes from my passion for volleyball. As for the remainder of the season and the coming years, I would really like to win a medal with my national team. Hopefully we can make it to the podium already later this summer as we compete at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland.”

Regina Moroz (RUS) – The Most Spectacular Volleyball Player – Women

The 26-year old Regina Moroz has been playing for Russian volleyball heavyweight Dinamo Kazan since the 2009 season. She is a four-time national champion (2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014), and a two-time winner of the Russian Cup (2010, 2012). She just had a fabulous season with the team from the capital city of Tatarstan, winning Russia’s first title in the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League and FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship where she was nominated for the All Star Team as one of its two middle-blockers.

Moroz was one of the best blockers in the last edition of the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League, registering 30 blocks in 11 matches. The 1.88m tall middle-blocker born in Voronezh is well-known among volleyball fans for her striking looks and for the glasses that she always wears to protect her eyes.

“We had a perfect season with Dinamo Kazan because our collective was very strong and we had plenty of star players on our roster,” she said by accepting the award. “Our coach was good too, and the staff there in Kazan is very supportive as well. Next year I will be playing in Moscow for Dinamo, and I hope I can continue on the same winning path.”

Nikola Grbic (SRB) – The Ultimate Volleyball Team Leader – Men

The oldest player competing in the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League together with Italy’s Samuele Papi, 40-year-old Nikola Grbic transferred to Russia shortly before the start of the 2013/2014 season after spending his entire professional career in Italy.

An Olympic champion (2000) and European champion (2001) as well as a multiple medallist from the European Championships, World Championships and the FIVB Volleyball World League, Grbic is considered by many, as the best setter of his generation and one of the best players ever in his role.

Grbic made once more the Final Four of the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League this year but had to be content with fourth place while marshalling Zenit Kazan. He retired from the Serbian national team after the 2010 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship held in Italy where he won bronze.

The youngest of the Grbic brothers recently announced he would stop playing to take up a coaching job in Italy and will be at the helm of rookie Sir Safety Perugia in the 2015 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League.

“Actually I was not that sure I wanted to stop,” Grbic admitted. “But the President of my Federation, Aleksandar Boricic, called me shortly after we had won the Russian national league asking me to take up that coaching job. I could not refuse that offer though. I know that it will be much more difficult to be a coach than to play. I just hope I can guide my players in the right way and all together we can achieve some good results.”

Neslihan Demir (TUR) – The Ultimate Volleyball Team Leader – Women

The 30-year-old opposite of Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul and captain of the Turkish national team is certainly the biggest star in the history of Turkish Volleyball. She was named Turkey’s Sportsperson of Year in 2003, 2004 and 2006. She represented her country as the flag-bearer at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

At age 19, she was the leading player in the Turkish team that won the silver medal at the 2003 European Championship. She also won continental bronze at the 2011 edition of the competition, as well as bronze from the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix.

At club level, Neslihan won the 2004 Top Teams Cup with VakifBank Istanbul and bronze from the 2007 Champions League with her Spanish team Spar Tenerife Marichal. From 2003 through 2014 she has won numerous individual awards for Best Spiker, Best Server, Best Scorer and Most Valuable Player from different competitions, including Best Scorer of the 2006 and the 2010 World Championships and, most recently, the Best Spiker of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League.

Her charismatic presence both on and off the court, as well as her tremendous contribution to the team’s performance are something both her teammates and her opponents look up to.

“That leadership is not something you can learn, it comes from inside, from your heart, and it drives you to sacrifice yourself for your teammates,” Demir said. “I am very happy with this prize though I was hoping to win the one for the newcomer of the year.”

Emiliya Nikolova (BUL) – The Volleyball Champions League Newcomer of the Year

The talented Bulgarian international is only 22 years old, but has already played in four different domestic leagues. She started her professional career back in 2007 as a player of Bulgaria’s Slaviya Sofia and moved on through clubs from Italy, Romania and Turkey.

In 2011 she won both the championship gold and the national cup of Romania with 2004 Tomis Constanta. She made her Champions League debut in the 2014 edition of the competition with Italy’s Prosecco Doc-Imoco Conegliano. The young opposite was the main attacking weapon coach Marco Gaspari used in leading the team to both the Champions League playoff stage and to the semi-finals of the Italian championship.

In only seven Champions League matches she scored 137 points which accounts for about 20 points per match. Emiliya has also been an essential part of the starting line-up of Bulgarian national team for several years now, having won European League silver in 2010 and bronze in 2011.

“I am amazed, that was my first season in this competition and I got the prize,” said an emotional Emiliya. “Yes, I have one volleyball idol and I am lucky enough that tonight she is in this room and sitting next to me – Neslihan Demir.”

Mira Golubovic (SRB) – Volleyball Lifetime Award

Born on October 15, 1976 in Metkovic (Yugoslavia, now Croatia), Mira Golubovic has played for clubs from Yugoslavia, Romania, Italy, Japan, Spain, Russia, Azerbaijan and, most recently, Switzerland, and has won numerous domestic championship titles and national cups.

The 37-year-old captain of Volero Zurich announced her retirement after the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship in Zurich, where her team finished fourth. During this past season, Golubovic also successfully captained Volero to the Playoffs 6 of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League and to a golden double in Switzerland.

Before joining Volero, the former Serbia and Montenegro national team middle blocker spent three seasons with Azerbaijan’s Rabita Baku winning gold from the 2011 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship and silver from the 2012 edition.

Back in 2000, Golubovic also won the CEV Champions Cup with Italy’s Foppapedretti Bergamo, and in 2011 and 2013 reached the silver medals in the CEV Volleyball Champions League with Rabita.

“It’s not an easy decision to stop playing but I believe this was the right moment,” she said. “I am very grateful for everything that I could experience throughout my long career. If I have to inspire a young kid and convince him to take up the sport, I would just recommend to enjoy every single moment, and to love the sport from the very deep of his heart as I did on every single day of my career.”

Spot on beach volleyball

Before the 2014 edition of the European Volleyball Gala drew to a close, it was time to spark a real beach volleyball fever among the hundreds of guests in attendance at the Hofburg Palace.

Austria’s largest sandbox in Klagenfurt will indeed – as it was already announced a few weeks ago – re-open its doors to Europe’s beach volleyball elite in 2015. After a record-breaking 2013 European Championship Final which was visited by more than 100,000 fans, the capital city of Carinthia will be playing host also to the 2015 edition where the next kings and queens of the beach will be crowned.

“We already expect another terrific beach volleyball party as our fans are accustomed to,” the President of the Austrian Volleyball Federation, Peter Kleinmann, said. “And we hope to be able to break the terrific records we set last year. Records are set to be broken, that’s what they are there for. This will be our fourth European Championship in five years, something which confirms the leading role that Austria plays in Europe when it comes to the organisation of top volleyball and beach volleyball events.”


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