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From Continental Cup to World Championships

Vanuatu's Elwin Miller and Henriette Iatika burgeoning career took flight during the Continental Cup allowing them to come into their own at the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Poland this year

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 31, 2013 - The Continental Cup was introduced in 2012 with the idea of spreading beach volleyball to non-traditional territories and to allow their teams to compete at the highest level of competition.

The tournament was the brainchild of current FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F° during his time as President of the Beach Volleyball Council and the evidence from the recently-concluded FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships is that it is already starting to bear fruit.

Two of the biggest beneficiaries have been Venezuela’s Igor Hernandez and Jesus Villafane and Vanuatu’s Elwin Miller and Henriette Iatika. 

Hernandez and Villafane won the 2012 South American tournament to reach the London 2012 Olympic Games and they were back competing at beach volleyball’s top table at FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Mazury 2013. There they made it through the pool stage to finish in a creditable 17th place. They then followed up that performance by reaching the quarterfinals at the Anapa Open in Russia.

At the World Championships, they became celebrities back home after they defeated 2008 Olympic champion and 2007 world champion, Todd Rogers and his new partner Ryan Doherty in pool play.

“Since we beat the USA in our first game, everyone is very excited about it,” Hernandez said. “The national TV called our hotel room for an interview, they asked about our game and we also did an interview online.”

More importantly their success has earned them greater funding from their national sports ministry, which will help them develop further as a team.

“Since the Olympic Games more and more young people in Venezuela are interested in beach volley,” Hernandez said. 

“We got support from the government after the Olympics. Thanks to that we were able to start different projects and encourage young people to play beach volleyball. We organise events for the junior and youth groups now in Venezuela.”

For Elwin and Iatika, the journey from their homes in the south Pacific may have been long, but was well worth it to become the first pair from Vanuatu to compete at a World Championships.

They had narrowly missed out on a place at London 2012 when they finished second in the Asian Continental Cup, but made up for that by impressing at the World Championships in Poland.

They finished second in their pool behind eventual bronze medallists Liliane Maestrini and Barbara Seixas, then gave the first seeds and soon-to-be world champions Chen Xue and Zhang Xi a fright in the first set of their second knockout round match.

“I have sacrificed my life at home to become the best I can be,” Iatika said. “I have two kids who stay on the island while I am away training and competing because I want to take part. I want to make my family and country proud of me and I want to show all the young people in Vanuatu what is possible if you try hard.”

In total there were four men’s team and three women’s teams who competed at the World Championships, having gone through the Continental Cup.

Mexico’s Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros made it to the knockout stages, while Chilean cousins Esteban and Marco Grimalt and Venezuela’s Leon Colina Chourio and Jackson Henriquez picked up valuable experience of top-level competition that they can take with them when they compete on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and Continental tournaments.

In the women’s competition Paraguay’s Michelle Valiente Amarilla was the youngest competitor at the World Championships aged 15 years and two months, when she played alongside Patricia Caballero Pena. Thailand’s Varapatsorn Radaron and Tanarattha Udomchavee meanwhile became the first team from their country to feature at a World Championships.

With two more years until the next World Championships in the Netherlands and three until the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, there is plenty of time for even more new teams to emerge and make their mark on the top echelons of beach volleyball.


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