Despite the limited activity, the last few months have featured some significant steps forward for the top female Chilean beach volleyball teams. And after earning their first-ever FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour medal, the country’s players are planning their next moves.
The historical result came in September, by the hands of Francisca Rivas and Chris Vorpahl, who finished third at a 1-star event in Vilnius, Lithuania, to secure bronze and put a Chilean female team on the podium at an international event for the first time.
“I had the feeling that we could have found our way to the podium of an international event for quite some time and then it happened,” the 32-year-old Rivas said in a recent interview with the Chilean Volleyball Federation website. “I was really proud that we were able to understand the mistakes we had made in the semifinal and work on them for the bronze medal match so we could win that historical medal.”
The piece of silverware, however, isn’t the only good memory the Chileans brought back from Europe. The event in Lithuania was actually just one stop of the six-week training camp the country’s men’s and women’s national teams enjoyed on the continent.
Competing was, of course, a positive in their trip, but the training camps the Chilean teams attended in Spain, Italy and France were really meaningful for the women, who don’t get to compete on the World Tour as frequently as they would like to.
“That camp was amazing,” Paula Vallejos, who finished fifth in the same tournament with Pilar Mardones, added. “Competing was great, but to get to practise there really opened our eyes in a lot of ways. We knew we were doing good work in Chile, but to spend time with some with the best teams in the world and see what they were doing and how we could raise our level really showed us we have what it takes to get there too.”
In the near future, though, their focus will shift again, moving from the international game back to South America, where the Chileans hope to accomplish an even more significant ‘first’ as the country will compete for an unprecedented qualification for the Tokyo Olympics at the Continental Cup.
After prevailing against Uruguay and Peru in December 2019, the Chileans will now face Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela in the semifinal round. The winner will move on to meet Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in the final round with the champion securing the right to send a team to the Japanese capital next July.
“The Continental Cup is our next goal and arguably the most important one as it can qualify Chile for the Olympics,” Vorpahl explained. “We also want to be among the three best countries in South America next season so hopefully we can qualify for the World Championships too. This is what we dream and what we work hard for.”
The competition will require a genuine team effort between the country’s top duos, which are both coached by Brazilian Paulao Moreira. During the Continental Cup, each nation is represented by two pairs. Even if only one of the two would be selected if Chile manage to secure a berth, an eventual triumph would actually be seen as a national victory for the players involved.
“It’s a big responsibility and something all of us have worked hard for,” Vallejos commented. “Both of our teams are preparing well and we’re very united as if we were only one team actually. That’s another thing we developed while in Europe and it needs to be our main weapon heading into the tournament.”
More beach volleyball from Chile:
Chileans ecstatic about first women's World Tour medal
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020