“USA just need to play their game” – Stacy Sykora
Lausanne, Switzerland, August 6, 2013 – Three-time Olympian and Beijing 2008 silver medallist Stacy Sykora made one of her toughest decisions of her career when she officially announced her retirement from volleyball on July 31 this year. Almost a week after her big announcement, Sykora provided her insights on the current format of the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and where she sees it going in the future.
“I think the 20-team composition of the World Grand Prix is great. The sport of volleyball is growing and this is what we all have wanted for years. With more teams coming to the World Grand Prix, there is now an opportunity for teams from all over the world to get more experience, which will allow the level of volleyball to rise and keep rising. On a more personal note the increase in the number of teams, makes the World Grand Prix fun for the players as they get to meet new athletes or get an opportunity to reconnect with team-mates who they played with professionally. I think it is a very positive move all around.
“I do not think that stepping-up will happen as all of the teams in the World Grand Prix have already reached a high enough level of performance. Increasing the participation in this year’s edition has made it all the more important for teams to stay focused and to give 100 percent of their effort, daily. Playing so many matches can become taxing to the mind and body of the athletes and each individual player and team needs rest and a good diet in order to maintain a strong mental game throughout the entire competition. No one has an advantage over the other; the strongest team will win, not only physically but mentally.
“Watch out for the veteran players because experience shows in most of these athletes. Since Brazil and the USA were in the gold medal match last year, I believe that they will have a lot of players to at the forefront of the action. Every year after the Olympic Games, new players surface from almost every national team. Each is one of only twelve players chosen to represent their country in the World Grand Prix, so all of them must be great.
“The USA just need to play their game regardless of what the opposing team is doing on the other side. This is why they have been so successful to date as they focus on mastering their game and do not worry much about the other team. They educate themselves on their opponents and know the other teams’ individual tendencies well enough to be able to make minor adjustments to their game.”
Stacy Sykora first played for the US national team in 1999 and since then has gone on to become one of the most recognisable faces in international women's volleyball. She has played at three Olympic Games where she finished fourth (2000), fifth (2004) and second (2008) and won a FIVB World Championship silver medal in 2002. She missed out on the London Olympics after suffering a near-fatal bus accident while playing for a Brazilian club in 2011. On July 31, 2013 Stacy officially announced her retirement from international volleyball. She now faces a new challenge in her career as coach with the USA Volleyball High Performance Program.
Read the VolleyWorld feature on Stacy Sykora here