Peru’s queen of volleyball
Anybody wondering about the health of volleyball in Peru should ask themselves the following question: where else in the world would a volleyball coach top a national poll for personality of the year?
This was the case for Natalia Malaga, a medallist with Peru at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and now coach of the team who took gold at the South American Youth Championship. The Peruvian girls’ triumph on home territory in Lima last November helped ensure that Malaga ranked first in a subsequent national survey, ahead of Peru’s first lady, Nadine Heredia, and Mario Vargas Llosa, the country’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner.
Her team’s five-set (25-18, 18-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-10) victory over Brazil in the final at the Miguel Grau de Callao arena brought them a first continental crown in 32 years and highlighted her success in instilling her own winning mentality in her young charges. As she herself put it: "This win is the result of the work of a team who forgot their limitations in order to empower their abilities. Representing Peru and having the privilege to be part of the Peruvian national team is something special that they must take on board responsibly and with real dedication.”
They certainly have the perfect example in the 49-year-old Malaga, considered a national sporting treasure in Peru. As a player she won eight South American titles along with silver medals at the Seoul Olympics and 1981 World Junior Championship, and a World Championship silver (1982) and bronze (1986).
As a coach she had already led Peru to bronze at the 2010 Junior Olympic Games before the subsequent feat of guiding them to qualification for two FIVB tournaments coming up this year: the Girls’ U18 World Championship in Thailand, and the Women’s U20 World Championship in the Czech Republic.
A further measure of her popularity came in the aftermath of Peru’s South American Championship victory. Nearly 100 journalists attended a press conference she gave, which was broadcast live on two TV channels. Moreover, she was honoured in the Peruvian parliament and also by the President of Peru, Ollanta Humala, who received her at the Government Palace to discuss the future of volleyball in the country. No subject is closer to her heart, of course: her first reaction to her team’s November success was to ask for more government support for the sport, and it is this level of dedication that has found its reward.
Titles won as player
1983: South American Championship, Sao Paulo
1985: South American Championship, Caracas
1987: South American Championship, Montevideo
1987 Japan Cup
1989: South American Championship, Curitiba
1993: South American Championship, Cusco
1980: South American Championship, Rancagua
1982: South American Championship, Santa Fe
1980: South American Championship, Sao Paulo
Titles won as coach
2011: U20 Pan American Cup, Callao
2012: South American Youth Championship, Lima