Candelas and Revuelta look ahead with confidence
With a fifth and pair of 25th-place finishes in their first three FIVB World Tour events this season, Candelas and Revuelta are looking forward to returning to confederation competition where the pair will be the top-ranked host country team when Mexico hosts NORCECA events in Colima (May 30-June 1) and Toluca (June 6-8). Depending on funding, Candelas and Revuelta are hopeful to return to the FIVB circuit at June’s Berlin Grand Slam.
An eight-year member of Mexico's women's volleyball national team (1997-2004), the 30-year-old Candelas was both “thrilled and disappointed” with her team’s result in last week’s Puerto Vallarta Open, where she and Revuelta won their first four matches as the ninth-seeded team in the competition before being eliminated by third-seeded Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia of China.
“Our goal was to reach the medal rounds,” said Candelas, “but we had a very tough draw in the quarterfinals against the Chinese. “Xue has been one of the best players in the world since 2006 with an Olympic bronze medal to her credit. Xia is only 17, but she has already won two gold medals on the FIVB World Tour with Xue. They are one of the best teams on the international tour, so losing to them is not so bad. We are just disappointed that we could not reach the final matches on Mother’s Day.”
Candelas, who is ranked by some as Mexico’s top women’s volleyball player of all time, said she was glad to return home after playing the first two events in China. In Fuzhou and Shanghai, they placed 25th after playing in both qualification tournaments to earn a spot in the Main Draws.
“We played a lot of matches in China, but we were not happy with our overall play for the two events,” said Candelas. “We played much better in Puerto Vallarta as the conditions were ideal for beach volleyball with great sand and warm weather. All the teams told us that the site was great and they really enjoyed playing this week. That’s great as I think last week’s tournament will help us build a strong site for future FIVB events.”
Candelas and Revuelta started playing full-time on the FIVB World Tour last season. The pair competed in four events, with a pair of 17th-place finishes at the end of the season in China (Xiamen) and Thailand (Phukett). The Mexicans also helped their country secure a third-place finish in the 2013 NORCECA Beach Volleyball Tour standings by winning one event, placing on the podium eight times and advancing to the medal rounds nine times in 10 events.
“We were very pleased with our NORCECA results last season,” said Candelas, who was a three-time collegiate All-American at the University of Southern California (2003-2005). She played on the school’s NCAA championship teams in 2002 and 2003 with London 2012 Olympic silver medallist April Ross of the United States. “Winning and placing at the NORCECA events is important, especially when it comes to qualifying for the Olympics.”
Like the Mexican men, Candelas and Revuelta were disappointed not to qualify for the Summer Games in London; both were playing with different partners during the 2012 Olympic qualifying process. While Revuelta was playing with Vanessa Virgen three seasons ago, Candelas was competing with Mayra Garcia. Candelas and Garcia were seeking a second trip to the Olympics after placing 17th at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, where they won one of four matches.
Canadian teams spoiled Mexico’s initial bid to qualify for London in the NORCECA Continental Cup competition in June 2012 at Mazatlán, for both men and women. One week later in Moscow - at the final qualifying event for the 2012 Summer Games - the Mexican men finished fourth and the women fifth with only the top two countries in each gender advancing to London for the Olympics.
“Nothing but heart-break for us in Mazatlán and Moscow,” said Salvador Gonzalez, who has been coaching the top Mexican beach volleyball teams since 1995. “We were so close, but yet so far. The goal now is to erase those 2012 memories and look to the future.”
Gonzalez is “confident that Candelas and Revuelta will maintain their ranking among NORCECA teams, but our goal is to be very competitive on the FIVB World Tour. There are several ways to qualify, but securing one of the 15 berths for the 2016 Olympic Games is the best way to earn a trip to Rio. It is the hardest due to the travel and the overall competition, but you are rewarded by playing well against the best teams in the world.”
While Candelas has established herself as a Mexican volleyball and beach volleyball legend, the 27-year-old Revuelta has “quietly” improved her game. “Bibiana is an inspiration for all women’s players in Mexico,” said Revuelta. “She established herself as one of the top players on the Mexican national team at an early age and then went to the United States and was a part of two national championships teams at USC. She returned home and earned an Olympic berth with Mayra in 2008 while becoming the winningest player in NORCECA women’s beach volleyball history. She is an amazing player, but more importantly, a better person. It is an honour to play with her.”
With Candelas’ USC accomplishments already noted, Revuelta was also referring to her partner’s “Best Blocker” and ”MVP” honours at the 1999 and 2000 NORCECA tournaments in Mexico and Cuba respectively, and the “Best Blocker” selection at the 2002 Senior Pan America Cup in Mexico. Candelas also led her state of Coahuila team to four consecutive national championships (1998-2001), where she earned “MVP” honours at Mexico's national tournament in 2001.
Candelas played in her first beach volleyball competition when she was 10. Her first beach volleyball honour came in 2006 when she teamed with Paula Gentil of the University of Minnesota to win the first-ever United States Collegiate Beach Volleyball Tournament at Reno, Nevada. In NORCECA beach volleyball competition, Candelas has topped the podium 10 times along with capturing 19 medals in 21 events. Eight of the gold medals were won with Garcia, two with Revuelta.
In Pan American Beach Volleyball competition, Candelas and Garcia were almost “perfect”, except for two of their 12 matches. Their only two setbacks were to Brazilian 2012 Olympic bronze medal winners and 2011 FIVB World Champions Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca.
Candelas dropped a two-set semifinal decision to Juliana and Larissa in the Rio 2007 Pan American Games, before defeating a team from Canada for the bronze medal. At the Puerto Vallarta 2011 Pan American competition, Candelas and Garcia lost in a 56-minute gold medal match (15-21, 24-22, 20-22) to the Brazilians. The Puerto Vallarta match was the seventh meeting between the two teams as the Mexicans had defeated Juliana and Larissa twice at FIVB events in Berlin (2008) and Marseille (2009).
“It was a great match,” said Candelas about the 2011 Pan American gold medal match. “The Brazilians were the world champions and against a team like that you can’t make errors in the critical moments. We let the game escape, but you have to take that as a learning experience. Despite the loss, the match gave us confidence that Mayra and I could play against the best.”
Revuelta, who has played in 17 FIVB World Tour events, as compared to the 67 played by Candelas, is excited about “having family and friends here to watch us play. We will have a lot of motivation to play hard. We will get a lot of energy from playing in Puerto Vallarta where supportive crowds will give us confidence to play well. With my brother (Juan) also competing in the men’s competition, our desire to play well is even greater.”
As one of the newer pairs on the FIVB World Tour, Revuelta feels they also have an early season advantage “since a lot of teams are not familiar with our play. We are also using a new approach to our playing style as our coach has specifically designed a strength training program for us along with getting us focused on improving the little things to take us from a good team to a very good team.”
The accomplishments of Candelas as a beach volleyball and volleyball player have been confirmed, but future deeds are more of a concern. “Martha and I are in the second of a four-year quest to reach the Rio Olympics. We feel we have the talent to compete at a very high level to reach our goal. One tournament in Puerto Vallarta will not determine our ultimate fate, but playing well this weekend will give us confidence for future events.”