Ankara, Turkey, January 6, 2016. Born on December 18, 1998, Paola Egonu is the youngest Volleyball player iat the women’s European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Ankara. Yesterday, she made her debut in an official match with the Italian senior national team.
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The 17-year-old Paola Egonu was born in 1998. To put it in perspective, 1998 was the same year Britney Spears released her super hit ‘Baby One More Time’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ premiered in the cinemas, and J. K. Rowling's ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ was published.
While many other Volleyball players start to play Volleyball because they have family who are also playing, the case is a bit different when it comes to Paola Egonu.
“I was 12 years old when I started playing. My interest for Volleyball came from some cartoons I used to watch. After seeing them, I started to play. It was just for fun in the beginning,” she said.
The career quickly caught speed for Egonu. In 2014 she was part of Italy’s U19 women’s team in the CEV European Championship, and the year after she played in the U18 team also at their age-group European Championship.
The 189 cm tall Italian is easily recognisable on the court in Ankara because of her looks.
“I was born in Italy, but both my parents are from Nigeria,” Egonu explained. Still only 17 years old, she made a good first impression in her senior debut against Russia in the European Olympic Qualifier. She seems to be enjoying the experience.
“I am very happy and excited to be playing here in Ankara,” she added. “We have really good organisation on the team. We are a good mix of young and older players who protect and support each other. A few of us had not played yet for the senior national team, but we are supporting each other alongside the rest of the team. The other players are looking after me, and I really enjoy staying with them."
She is absolutely clear about what she and the rest of the Italian team want to achieve: “We really want to qualify for the Olympics.”