Athens, Greece, March 22, 2009 - Vassiliki Arvaniti will be adjusting her Beach Volleyball game for the third time as she seeks a third Olympic bid with a new partner for the start of the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour season.
“I think it's too early to talk about 2012, but I wish to be there,” said the 24-year-old Arvaniti, who played the past four seasons with three-time Greek Olympian Vasso Karadassiou. Arvaniti will team with Maria Tsiartsiani when the 18th season of SWATCH FIVB World Tour competition for women begins in Brazil with an April 20-26 event in Brasilia.
“It was a great experience for me to play with Vasso,” said Arvaniti, who is 12 years younger than Karadassiou. “She is a very good player. I tried to absorb all the best things from her. I never felt anything about the age difference, we were like sisters. She was a nice part of my career and my life. It was a great four years with her.
Karadassiou finished her 12-season SWATCH career by playing in more FIVB events (119) and earning more money (US$359,980) than any other European player on the international tour. Karadassiou ranks second to German Danja Musch (six medals and 11 top four finishes) in terms of SWATCH podium placements (four) and “final four” finishes (10) among European players.
“She is now developing a Beach Volleyball Academy (Beach Life Experience)" in Greece with Manolis Roumeliotis,” Arvaniti noted. “She doesn't have much time now for coaching. She will be missed as a competitor, but she is still contributing with the development of the sport in Greece.”
“Maria will be my partner from now on,” said Arvaniti, who captured one SWATCH and eight European tour gold medals with Karadassiou to become the most successful Greek Beach Volleyball team in history. “Maria and I are looking forward to playing with each other and we hope to make it well.”
Arvaniti, the second youngest player to win a SWATCH FIVB World Tour event at the age of 20, said playing with Tsiartsiani will be different as she and Karadassiou “were playing both block and defense. Now, I play only defense because Maria is a good blocker. In the beginning, we felt a little strange playing together because all these years we were used to be opponents. But every day, we are more relaxed to each other and try to enjoy the game.”
Both Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani will be beginning their seventh full season of international competition. While Arvaniti was playing with Karadassiou, Tsiartsiani competed in 59 SWATCH FIVB World Tour events the past four seasons with Efthalia Koutroumanidou as the pair also earned a berth in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
While Arvaniti and Karadassiou earned three podium placements and eight “final four” finishes in 49 SWATCH starts, Tsiartsiani and Koutroumanidou captured silver and bronze FIVB medals in 2005 for their best finishes together. Tsiartsiani and Koutroumanidou also placed third in their final event together at a European tour stop in England where they dropped a semi-final match to Arvaniti and Karadassiou.
As for preparing for the 2009 season, Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani spent a week in the Canary Islands at Fuerteventura where the Greeks trained with teams from Austria (Doris and Stephanie Schwaiger) and Germany (Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig). Arvaniti and Tsiartsiani are currently training in Athens before leaving next month for a few days of practice in Rio de Janeiro before heading to Brasilia.
“We had a good week of practicing with Sara, Laura and the Schwaiger sisters,” said Arvaniti. “It was really good for us because we need to play with other teams and try to improve our weaknesses. Right now, we stay in Greece and are expecting some European teams to practice with us. We will be in Brazil some days before the tournament and practice in Rio with Brazilian teams.”
In addition to working on her defensive game with Tsiartsiani being the blocker, Arvaniti still feels “the most important thing on Beach Volleyball is the side out. A lot of players forget that the best defense is being able to side out as it scores a point for you. Our physical training is also very important as I want to be healthy and enjoy the game with the best result I can have.”
With Stavanger hosting the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships, Arvaniti is looking forward to returning to the southwestern Norwegian port city where she and Karadassiou won a 2005 gold medal before placing second last season after losing the finale to Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States.