29.06.2019 - Hamburg, Germany
Cuba was arguably the biggest surprise of the 2017 edition of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships as the Caribbean nation placed both their men and women teams inside the top-10 of the tournament played at the Danube Island, in Vienna, a couple of years ago.
They are coming for more in Hamburg, but not exactly with the same plan as the two teams who gave the country its second-best World Championships campaign are no longer together.
On the men’s side, Sergio Gonzalez is now sharing the court with 20-year-old Luis Reyes after spending the most part of the last four years with Nivaldo Diaz, who was by his side on their fifth-place finish at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the World Tour gold medal in Langwaki in 2017 and the bronze medal at the 2015 Pan-American Games.
“We had a lot of success together, but Nivaldo decided to not continue his career and focus on studying and I can only accept it and wish him all the best,” Sergio said. “Now it’s a new project for me and I feel that step-by-step we’re polishing our game and getting better. We can clearly see that our hard work is paying off.”
Even without his longtime partner by his side, the 29-year-old Sergio is confident his new team can do damage among the beach volleyball elite this week in which is just their second international appearance together.
“We’re a new team, but anything can happen,” he stated. “We didn’t start the tournament in the best way, but there’s still a pair of pool play matches ahead of us and we’ll see what we can do from there. I don’t like to set goals and I always take one match at a time, but if they go our way, we can match or maybe even do better than Nivaldo and I did in Vienna, who knows?”
On the women’s side, a new team is also taking the courts at the Rothenbaum Stadium with three-time World Championship veteran Leila Martinez now pairing with Maylen Tamayo. Her 2017 partner Lidy Echeverría had a serious knee injury that had her sidelined for the entire 2018 season and she now has a new teammate in Yanisleides Sanchez.
“We’re super excited to be here competing with the best in the world,” Leila said. “We don’t get to be constantly playing in the World Tour, so this means a lot for us. At the same time, it takes us a little longer to get into our rhythm, but we’re just thinking about doing our best and see how far we can get.”
The team has been doing pretty well at continental level, having topped the podium in as many as five NORCECA Tour events since last years and they hope Maylen’s first World Championships appearance helps them as they move forward.
“I feel very good about this team and I feel she’s very excited to be here,” Leila added. “This is the biggest tournament of the year and it’s great that we managed to qualify as we don’t get those opportunities very often. We also have the 2019 Pan-American Games on our radar and hopefully playing here improves our game and helps us down the road.”