Russia’s Dinamo Kazan, with their superstar Ekaterina Gamova, achieved a historic victory at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship but the “Golden Ladies” had little time for celebrations.
“I think it’s a big success for our club because it’s the first time a Russian team has won this tournament,” said USA star Jordan Quinn Larson-Burbach after her team’s triumph in Zurich. “Nevertheless, we must now prepare for the finals of the Russian League in Moscow.”
The final of the Russian championship takes place at Dinamo Moscow at 20:00 local time on Thursday. And the best club team in the world now has its sights on crowning an outstanding club season with another title. Dinamo Kazan will be hungry for revenge after the 3-1 defeat in the cup final in January - this fact alone shows the strength of the Russian league.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was keen to emphasise this point, after success within the span of 24 hours for the men of Belogorie Belgorod and the ladies of Dinamo Kazan meant the volleyball super power had won both Club World Championship titles for the first time in its history.
“I have sent a congratulatory telegram,” said Mutko. “This is the result of the well-organised work put in by the country’s Volleyball Federation. And it should be used as an example. The excellent organisation of the Russian championship has been a key factor in the success.”
Another very important factor was Ekaterina Gamova, who virtually won the final on her own, scoring a remarkable 24 points in the 3-0 victory over Molico Osasco of Brazil. It was only logical that the lady widely regarded as the best player in the world at present was named MVP after the match.
Dinamo Kazan’s coach Rishat Gilyazutdinov praised Gamova’s performance as outstanding again, but was also keen to emphasise the good team spirit.
“I think we showed that we were ready and how strong we can play as a team,” said coach Gilyazutdinov.
Larson-Burbach and Italy’s Antonella Del Core played major roles in Dinamo Kazan's victory. The two foreigners have adapted well with their team-mates on court and with the Russian way of life.
“I really enjoy it in Kazan,” said Larson-Burbach. “I already feel a little bit like a Russian, even though I don’t speak the language all that well. The people are so friendly. My team-mates are amazing and (they) helped me a lot. I also started to enjoy the Russian cuisine and drinking samovar.”
It was this spirit that allowed Kazan to add the title of best club team in the world to that of Europe’s top club team, as they swept aside last year’s FIVB Women’s World Club Champions, VakifBank Istanbul. Kazan more than deserved their success as their semifinal victory over Sesi-SP saw them overcome the second team from Brazil.
Kazan’s success heralds a new era for Russian volleyball. In 1992, Uralochka Ekaterinburg finished third to become the only club team from Russia to earn a place on the podium at the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship – a remarkable fact, given the huge popularity of volleyball in Russia.
In winning this year, Kazan have also maintained a tradition at the showdown between the top club teams in the world. In eight years, the competition has yielded no fewer eight winners – three from Brazil, two from Turkey, one from Azerbaijan, Italy, and now Russia.
Given a wildcard entry into the tournament, Molico Osasco had a great opportunity to bring this tradition to an end. However, Kazan were one step too far for the 2012 winners.
The disappointment was understandable. After all, the team featuring the high-scoring Sheilla Castro and Thaisa Menezes had held their own in the 3-2 preliminary round defeat against the same opponents.
In the end, the only consolation was a silver medal and the knowledge that Brazil remains the most successful nation in the history of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship. Their colleagues at Sesi-SP celebrated in style after their 3-2 victory over hosts Volero Zürich in the bronze medal match.
“It’s an important medal for all of us,” said Sesi-SP captain Fabiana Claudiono. “We are a young club and I’m sure that we will grow as team. Every medal has its special value and this one is just beautiful for me.”
Coach Talmo Curto Oliveira revealed the key reason for the title heading to Russia this year. “Ekaterina Gamova made the difference, as she played with a lot of variety in her attacks,” said coach Oliveira.
However, even the tournament’s most outstanding player had to wait until she was 33 years old to be crowned Club World Champion for the first time.