Ilya Leshukov keen to return to action

Ekaterinburg, Russia, July 7, 2020 – Ilya Leshukov, a member of the second highest ranked Russian men’s beach volleyball pair, was the guest star of a fun series of interviews called #Sborniki (#Сборники in Russian, which translates to #NationalTeamers), run on the @RUSVolleyTeam social media channels dedicated to the Russian national teams.

The 24-year-old athlete has spent most of his time during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown at a house with a garden in his native Ekaterinburg. The last tournament he and his teammate two-time Olympian Konstantin Semenov played was the Doha 4-star on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

In September 2019, Leshukov and Semenov failed to qualify for Tokyo 2020 after finishing third at the qualification tournament in Haiyang, but they are still well in contention for a spot at the Games via the Olympic ranking process.

Since they teamed up for the 2018 season, Leshukov & Semenov have also won two gold and three bronze medals on the World Tour, as well as silver at the 2019 CEV European Championship in Moscow.

In the early days of his international career, Ilya Leshukov won silver medals at the 2014 FIVB U21 Beach Volleyball World Championship and the 2014 CEV U20 Beach Volleyball European Championship in partnership with Aleksander Margiev.

Here is a short resume of Leshukov’s most interesting answers:

Exercising during the lockdown
“I threw in some sand in the garden and I set up a net, so I have something to do. The measures here in Ekaterinburg are still pretty strict, but in the neighbouring Chelyabinsk Oblast they have relaxed them, so we travel there to play from time to time. It was difficult in the first ten days, when I was wondering what was going on; now that all my tournaments had stopped what I was going to do, how I was going to find motivation… Then they started sending us exercises from our club and we worked out together through Zoom.”

Most time-consuming activity during the lockdown
“Eating. But at some point we started training and it saved me.”

How much he misses the game
“I already want to get back to playing like crazy. Any kind of tournament… After a long preparation period without tournaments, our initial plan was to also skip Doha and get ready for the next tournaments, but we went to Doha, because it is hard for an athlete to just keep training without the opportunity to compete and blow off steam.”

Best season of his career
“The last one. I would say, things are getting better and better every season and there is some kind of progress.”

Biggest achievement of his career
“The EuroBeachVolley silver in Moscow.”

The Olympics
“Everybody is talking about it. For any athlete this is the very top, the highest point where they want to show themselves and become a part of history. It is a real dream.”

The road to the beach
“I was in ninth grade when they took me to the volleyball Olympic reserve in Ekaterinburg. Everything was very professional. We lived there and trained twice a day. I started progressing, but at some point I realised that with indoor volleyball I would not be able to reach the high achievements I demanded from myself in life. In the meantime, I was getting more and more in love with beach volleyball. They started organising tournaments; I started playing and things were turning out well. But when I went to the national championship, our pair finished next to last, I think, winning only one match. But the level there was very high. I was noticed by a coach from Saint Petersburg and he invited me there. I realized I was going to fight on the beach to reach high results.”

The partnership with Semenov
“The mutual connection is quietly getting better and better. We are both very specific characters and it happens that we yell at each other sometimes, but with time, this gets pushed to the background and we find the knobs to fine-tune our communication. It’s hard enough to spend more time with your teammate than with your family, so we have our downfalls, but gradually adjust to the situation.”

How beach volleyball has changed over the years
“Like in any sport, with the development of technology, we grow our knowledge about sports tactics, about recovery and the level is rising. Beach volleyball is becoming more physical. Beachers from the generation of Ricardo and Dalhausser, who are still competing, played a more technical game. I think nowadays there is a higher number of top-level teams than in the past.”

Preferred position in indoor volleyball
“Outside hitter.”

The Russian Superliga
“Yes, of course, I follow the Superliga. It’s interesting to see how the kids I played with or against at youth levels are growing and progressing.”

First thing to do on the day everything is open again
“I dream of going to a restaurant, ordering something delicious, sitting for a while in pleasant company, talking and looking around at people.”

Other sports he tried before volleyball
“If there is a ball involved, I have probably tried it at some point.”

“Porridge and scrambled eggs complete the list of my culinary skills. I’ve been lucky with a woman whose cooking is magnificent.”

“They don’t trust me to work with the seeds and the plants. They just give me the spade and let me dig the earth. I am amazingly good at that.”

Ace or spike

Take a midday nap or browse YouTube
“Definitely the nap.”

Quiet family dinner or dancing with friends till dawn
“Quiet family dinner.”

Spaghetti or vermicelli
“Definitely spaghetti.”

Ekaterinburg or Moscow

Batman or Joker
“Neither. But let’s say Batman. He is the good guy.”

Final message to the fans
“Thank you for coming, for cheering and for supporting us! Without you, there wouldn’t be so much fire on the court.”

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