Paraguay under the spell of beach volleyball
“We have talked to almost every media back home”, Pati said. “Football is the most important sport in our country, but everyone is cheering for us now and we have a lot of fans. Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for us.”
Until this year 29-year old Pati and her 15-year old partner Michelle, who’s the youngest player in Stare Jablonki, only competed on the South American Tour, where their best result was reaching the quarterfinals at the Chilean and Venezuelan legs.
In order to prepare for their international debut they entered the Corrientes Grand Slam this year and finished 41st in their first World Tour event. “It costs a lot to travel, so we only play in the countries close by”, Pati explained. “I have a daughter and a husband and we are not playing professionally, so it’s hard to get the money. Michelle still goes to school.”
Despite Michelle’s studies and Patti’s fulltime job, they practice together every day in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. But there are not a lot of people to practice with. “We have a maximum of 10 beach volleyball teams in Paraguay and only in the capital. Everybody plays football because we don’t have beaches. There’s no sand, so we make up artificial courts.”
Start a trend
Patti hopes their historic trip to the World Championships will change that. “With this tournament we might start a trend and get people interested in beach volleyball.”
That is one of the main reasons they are really set on making a good impression. “We want to play as long as we can and motivate the children and younger people to play, so some day they can play professionally. Not only to participate but also to win competitions and appear on tournaments like this.”
Pati and Michelle could not add a victory to their World Champs success story yet. They lost their first match 2-0 (21-13 21-16) to Dutch Meppelink and Van Gestel, but they fought hard against Kazakhstan’s Tatyana Mashkova and Irina Tsimbalova and won the first set in a 2-1 defeat (14-21 21-16 15-12). On Wednesday they will have a last chance against USA’s Fopma and Sweat.
For 15-year old Michelle it is all a bit overwhelming, her first trip across the ocean. “I am very proud, because it’s a great opportunity to represent my country, but at the same time I am very nervous. It’s my first time at such a big event.”
According to Patti, Michelle is just running around all day taking photos of about everything she sees, like a school kid should. She loves the people, the players, the country, and the weather. There is only one disappointment for Michelle … her idol, Kerri Walsh, is not here.
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Tournament Page
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Women's Schedule
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Men's Schedule
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Women's Entry List
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Men's Entry List