Who else to round off Volleyball World’s Team of the Week series with if not reigning world champions Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia, the first men’s team to secure their spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by winning gold at Hamburg 2019.
>>> Watch Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy on Volleyball World TV.
Krasilnikov’s first steps on the international stage
Slava Krasilnikov made his first international appearance at the 2009 FIVB U19 Beach Volleyball World Championship where he and Artem Kucherenko started from the qualifications to reach the quarterfinals before losing to the champions-to-be Sergiy Popov and Valeriy Samoday of Ukraine. Four years later, Krasilnikov matched that achievement at the U23 level alongside Andrey Bolgov.
Having taken his first taste of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour on home sand at the 2012 Moscow Grand Slam, Krasilnikov won his first medal at his second appearance on the Tour, again on Russian sand - bronze at the 2013 Anapa Open, partnering with Alexey Pastukhov.
Reaching Rio semis with Semenov
This is when he joined forces with Konstantin Semenov. The newly formed pair immediately claimed silver at the 2013 Berlin Grand Slam. At the 2014 Moscow Grand Slam, they triumphed on top of the podium for the first time. Through the end of the 2016 season, Krasilnikov and Semenov won a total of five World Tour medals and silver at the 2016 European Championship and reached the semifinals of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games before parting ways.
“Rio 2016 was my first Olympics but I felt confident physically, technically and psychologically. The fourth place showed that we could fight at the highest level. My goal then was to get to the Olympic Games, my goal now is to win medals at the Olympics,” Krasilnikov said.
First World Championship medal
In 2017 and 2018, the 1.95m-tall defender added five more FIVB podium finishes, including bronze at the World Championship in Vienna, alongside Nikita Liamin, before teaming up with Oleg Stoyanovskiy.
Youth Olympic glory for Stoyanovskiy
Stoyanovskiy started his international career in 2013 in partnership with Artem Yarzutkin. They finished ninth at the U19 World Championship in Porto and claimed the continental title at the CEV U18 European Championship in Molodechno. In 2014, they reached the quarterfinals of two more age-category World Championships before snatching gold at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games.
“At that time it was really a great achievement. We got a feel of what the Olympics are like. Yes, not with the same pressure as at the adult Games, but it was a very good experience. Winning is always nice, especially at a once-in-a-lifetime event, taking into account the age restrictions,” Stoyanovskiy said.
Up to the senior level
That same year, Stoyanovskiy and Yarzutkin made their debut on the World Tour, at the 2014 Moscow Grand Slam, before becoming regulars in 2015 and winning their first Tour medal in 2016, a Kish Island Open silver. In 2017, they took two bronze medals on the World Tour and became U22 European champions.
The 2.07m-tall blocker spent most of 2018 in partnership with Igor Velichko, claiming three World Tour medals, including a Xiamen 4-star gold.
The new dream team’s immediate success
Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy started touring together in October 2018 and immediately made the podiums at their first three World Tour stops – Yangzhou 4-star silver, Las Vegas 4-star bronze and The Hague 4-star gold.
“We’ve had three unbelievable tournaments! Slava is the best and nothing more needs to be said,” exclaimed Stoyanovskiy after the final in the Netherlands in early January.
Top of the world
That success marked the beginning of a fantastic 2019 for the new Russian tandem. They earned a total of four gold medals, including those at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Hamburg and the World Tour Finals in Rome. At the age of 22, Oleg became the youngest world champion in history. This achievement automatically placed him and Krasilnikov among the world’s highest-calibre teams and upped the expectations.
“Winning one of the two most prestigious competitions in beach volleyball was something unreal and I am very glad I got to experience it. We gained a little more confidence after the victory and we take this result as a reward for the work we’ve done and an incentive to continue working. Now we are stamped as world champs for the rest of our lives and I hope we use this popularity to promote our sport. Of course, now we are among the favourites at every tournament, and that adds to the pressure,” Stoyanovskiy pointed out.
Strong comeback and looking ahead
As number two in the FIVB World Ranking and with an Olympic ticket in hand, Viacheslav and Oleg were already gearing up to continue their success at Tokyo 2020, when the coronavirus struck and the two partners were forced to self-isolate for a long time. But when they came back they were as strong as ever. Domestically, they emphatically defended their Russian Championship title. Internationally, they took silver at the 2020 CEV European Championship in Jurmala, awaiting and preparing for the return of the World Tour and the highly anticipated postponed Tokyo Games in 2021.
“We are still in the early stages of our partnership. We have a lot to improve. We’re very young as a team and we are trying to find out how we can interact on and off the court. For sure we need to keep concentrated so that we can do our best on the court in the future,” 24-year-old Stoyanovskiy said.
“Oleg is a wonderful young guy - it is very comfortable to play with him. I have a very good friendship with him and we feel each other on the volleyball side. My experience, his physical abilities and our common aspiration to win are producing results,” 29-year-old Krasilnikov commented. “I had a great relationship with all my partners, but with Oleg we have volleyball chemistry!”
Quotes used from Viacheslav Krasilnikov’s interviews for the official YouTube channel of the Russian federation, Sport-Express and fivb.comand from Oleg Stoyanovskiy’s interviews for the official website of the Russian Olympic Committee, Sport-Express and fivb.com.
Follow Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy on Instagram.
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020