Although she retired as a professional athlete some four years ago, Ekaterina Gamova is still one of the most recognisable names in Russian women’s volleyball. With a glorious playing career spanning over three different decades, Gamova left a remarkable legacy in the volleyball world.
Born in 1980, a young Gamova earned her first international honours in the final decade of the 20th century. With Russia’s junior national team, she claimed gold medals at both the 1997 and the 1999 FIVB U20 Volleyball World Championships, following a 1996 U19 continental silver.
By the end of the century, she had already moved up to the senior level and won a gold at the 1999 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and at the 1999 CEV European Championship, as well as silver at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the 1999 FIVB Volleyball World Cup and the 2000 World Grand Prix.
Of course, the first decade of the new century, which was in the middle of the Russian star’s career, was the most successful one for her – an Athens 2004 Olympic silver, three FIVB Volleyball World Championship medals, including gold in 2006 and 2010, a 2001 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup silver, another five Grand Prix medals and another three EuroVolley medals, including the 2001 continental title.
During that decade, she also earned a number of individual honours, most importantly, the MVP award at the 2010 World Championship.
“That victory at the 2010 World Championship in Japan was the most memorable event with the national team for me,” Gamova told Volleyball World ten years later.
But the 2.02m-tall opposite also remembers another important match with the Sbornaya jersey, which her team lost. At the London 2012 Olympics, Russia topped Pool A unbeaten advancing to a quarterfinal clash with Brazil, who had finished fourth in Pool B. In that remarkable game, Gamova and her teammates were up by a set twice, but eventually had to concede after a thrilling 21-19 loss in the tie-breaker.
“The quarterfinal match of the Olympic Games in London, when we did not qualify for the semifinals, was a very important match,” said Gamova, who scored 25 points against the champions-to-be from Brazil. “Many people believe that it was a match worthy of the final.”
If in the previous years, Gamova’s major achievements came with the national team, the last decade was highlighted by her success at the club level.
“For me the last decade in volleyball was great. I have not played volleyball for four years now, but in the previous six years there were many pleasant events and many victories. If we talk about matches at the club level, then I remember the victories with Dinamo Kazan at the Club World Championship and in the Champions League,” she said.
Having won numerous domestic national trophies, medals and individual awards in Russia and Turkey with her club teams Metar Chelyabinsk, Uralochka Ekaterinburg, Dinamo Moscow and Fenerbahce Istanbul, in 2010 Gamova moved to Dinamo Kazan, where she spent the last and most successful period of her club career.
In addition to winning five consecutive Superliga titles and two Russia Cup trophies with the Tatari powerhouse, Gamova celebrated victories at two top-level international club competitions, the FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship and the CEV Champions League, both in 2014. On both occasions, the Russian star was crowned with the MVP title.
Ekaterina Gamova fondly associates the past decade with her participation in the FIVB Heroes campaign, which aimed to raise awareness about the most outstanding players’ athletic achievements. On that occasion, a five-metre-tall sculpture of her was created and travelled around the world to promote the campaign.
“I like to recollect that excellent initiative of the International Volleyball Federation. I was part of the team. The statue is still preserved and stands tall within the volleyball centre in Kazan,” said Gamova.
The distinguished Russian volleyballer announced her retirement as a player for health reasons in 2016 at the age of 35, just before the opportunity to participate in her fifth Olympic Games.
“That was a tough decision, but I believe it was the only right one for me,” she said at the time. “I would like to thank all the fans, the coaches who took part in my development as an athlete, and my family who have always supported me.”
Currently, Ekaterina Gamova works as a supervisor of the Russian junior and youth national teams. She is also a member of the FIVB Athletes Commission.
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