Irina Koroleva both focused and emotional


Irina Koroleva and her Russian teammates celebrate Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification in Kaliningrad

Kazan, Russia, August 6, 2020 – One of the most popular members of the Russian women’s volleyball national team, Irina Koroleva, was the third guest of the fun series of online video interviews, called #Sborniki (#Сборники in Russian, which translates to #NationalTeamers), run on the @RUSVolleyTeam social media channels dedicated to the Russian national teams. She was obviously in a great mood and offered a lot of laughs to the viewers.

The 28-year-old middle blocker is a two-time European champion (2013 and 2015) and bronze medallist of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. The 1.96m-tall Russian also took bronze at the 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, where she topped the best blockers chart and made the Dream Team of the tournament.

Earlier in the summer of 2019, she was the second best blocker of the CEV European Championship and of the intercontinental Olympic qualification tournament in Kaliningrad, where Russia booked their tickets to Tokyo 2020.

When the club volleyball season in Russia was prematurely interrupted, Koroleva and her teammates from Dinamo Kazan were declared national champions, based on the regular season results in the Superliga. Koroleva was once again the best blocker of the season, achieving the highest average of 1.14 stuffs per set. She also registered the highest success rate in attack (60%) among all players who attempted at least 50 spikes. In December, she was named Best Blocker of the national cup finals as well.

The 2016 Olympian, with 104 caps for the national team, has spent her time during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown at home in Kazan.

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

What she did during the lockdown
“Usually the holidays are always too short to fit everything you want to do – beach vacation, visit the parents, meet with friends, go to the restaurant, the theatre, the ballet..., everything you don’t have time for during the season. I have a whole list, but under the quarantine I just had to throw it away, because nothing was allowed. For the first two weeks I was in unchartered territory and didn’t know what to do. I told myself, ‘you are an athlete, you should start working out!’, but I simply couldn’t. ‘First I’ll clean up, then I’ll work out; first I’ll eat, then I’ll work out; first I’ll sleep, then I’ll work out…’, and so the time passed. Once the training hall was re-opened, it was another story…”

First thing she did when the lockdown was over
“I went for a haircut. I wanted to go to the Olympics with long hair, but then the lockdown came around, the Olympics were postponed, and I was stuck at home with this long hair that was constantly in the way.”

First steps in sports
“They wanted to send me to the same basketball coach who trained my brother and my mother, and even my grandmother, but at that time he no longer wanted to coach girls. So following in my dad’s footsteps I ended up in volleyball. I was tall. My mom has been telling us that when we were babies, we never walked under tables, because by the time we learned how to walk we could no longer fit. I just wanted to keep busy, stay in shape and communicate with other kids and didn’t even think of reaching any heights in volleyball. But then, this is what happened.”

“I have memories of going to my grandmother’s house, digging up potatoes with my father. I must have been two or three years old. But there are so many stories, I can go on and on for hours... There was a lot of going to the seaside and a lot of everything – happy and sad. My mom told me we didn’t have a lot of money and she fed us potatoes and stuff like that, but I remember none of it. But I guess it was the same for everyone in those times. I also remember fighting with my brother a lot.”

Beach volleyball
“In fact, I have a really positive opinion about beach. The first time I played, I was already in the Superliga and everybody was challenging me to take part in this mixed tournament back in Novosibirsk. We finished third, but I realised it’s a different kind of sport. I said to myself, ‘god, how do these girls manage to reach these balls, how do they get up when they fall after digging a wild ball, and all that with the sun and the sand in their faces!?’ Respect!”

Concentrated vs. expressive Koroleva
“It’s a combo. Being focused and serious is inseparable from the emotions of joy I feel when I ace or spike successfully, for example. I feel joy for my teammates as well. When your comrade blasts a serve at 90 km/h, how can you not rejoice?!”

Career abroad
“Altogether, I am for it. But there are so many interesting countries in my fantasies that I would be curious to play in – China, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Italy, Turkey... How do you fit all these in the short career of an athlete? And what if you like it somewhere? Do you stay? Do you go? So we have to wait to see what happens...”

Block or ace

Sports suit or dress

Russian borsht or French onion soup
“Borsht. I don’t like onions.”

Tatari chak-chak or pancakes
“I like them both, but let’s go with chak-chak, especially the assorted kind we have in Kazan.”

Daytime nap or shopping
“Daytime nap.”

Soap opera or soap bubbles
“Soap bubbles.”

Final message to the fans
“Guys, I love you madly! I am thankful for the huge amount of comments and feedback. I hope that you also received a great charge of energy and you will put it into each minute of your lives. Be positive, open, super healthy and beloved!”

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