Elisa Togut looks ahead to Women's World Championship
Togut won silver at the European Championships in 2001 and in 2005, as well as a bronze medal in 1999 when the final round was hosted by Italy. She also has a silver and a bronze medal from the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix on her resume and has received a series of accolades in the European Cups. The only title which is really missing from her collection of trophies is the so-called “scudetto”, the award for the winners of Italy’s national league.
A few weeks ago, Togut announced her retirement from competitive sport to focus on her family. She will keep an eye on the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014, however, which will stop in Trieste, near her home town of Gorizia, where she was born in 1978.
Does it feel a little bitter to announce your retirement right when Italy is about to host the Women’s World Championship?
At least as far as I am concerned, once you make up your mind, you must be very determined and know what you are doing. Volleyball has given me plenty of emotions; it has been 20 amazing years, at the highest level. One chapter of my life is coming to an end, but that is life and I am convinced that this is a starting point for new experiences. I have no regrets and I am closing a chapter of my life that has been extremely important and I can only stress that I have learned a lot throughout these 20 years in volleyball.
Since you are no longer playing, how will you follow the matches of the World Championship?
I would like to see a volleyball fever spread across our neighbourhood and I am planning to visit Trieste to see some matches. There will be many cities involved in the championship. Maybe I can also make it to Milan for the final stage and cheer on the Italian team there.
Elisa, once when you were a school pupil, you wrote on your notebook: “My dream is to play for the national volleyball team.” How did it feel when you wore that jersey for the first time?
It was a very emotional moment, I was very happy but did only realised afterwards what it really meant to me. Once you are no longer given these opportunities, you appreciate them even more, and this applies to the most important things in life, not just those in volleyball.
Volleyball fans did not simply like you, they all love you. Is it difficult to keep an emotional side in the game, or wouldn’t it be easier to be just a scoring machine?
As long as you remain humble and down to the ground, you will reach peoples' hearts. The nicest memory is that you won by remaining yourself. I did not change at all after leaving my home town and this is the nicest thing people can say to me.
In your outstanding career, what counted the most: technical and physical skills or determination?
You have to find the right mix; of course I was lucky to be tall but this is not the only thing that really matters, because you can see many young players around who eventually do not break through. It is very difficult to be successful without developing your technical skills and showing the right determination.
Is the gold medal you won at the World Championship in 2002 – where you also received the award for the MVP – your best memory?
Yes, that was the climax of my career. When you win gold at a World Championship, that is something that will last forever. It was a real triumph for our national team, which had never made it to the top before.
Which lesson shall the current members of the Italian national team take from that tournament?
You always need to remain focused to make it to the end. The World Championship is a very long tournament and you have to take it match by match, without thinking too much about the final result.
The city of Trieste will be hosting a pool that features the national teams of Brazil, Serbia, Turkey, Canada, Bulgaria, and Cameroon. What are your thoughts on the group?
It is a world-class pool. It is also an excellent mix, with Brazil who have been at the top for many years already, Serbia who are an emerging power - but who have already made it to the top in Europe - and Turkey, another team to have made their breakthrough quite recently.
You have announced that you want to focus on family life, but who better than you to contribute to the further development of women’s volleyball in Italy?
Well, people like me who have received so much from the sport and have so much experience also want to give something back. However, right now I just want to take some time for myself and for my family. After that, we will see. I do not want to rule anything out, especially if there is a way to combine work in that direction with my family life.