Evgenia Ukolova: “We are not in the best shape but ready to fight”
2014 CEV Beach Volleyball Satellite - Anapa
Anapa, Russia, January 14, 2014. Evgenia Ukolova and her partner Maria Prokopeva top the entry list of the 2014 CEV Satellite tournament in Anapa that will get underway on Wednesday. Last year was quite ambiguous for Ukolova, who won the FIVB Anapa Open but at the end of the season parted ways with her partner Ekaterina Khomyakova. On the threshold of the first CEV Beach Volleyball tournament of the 2014 season Ukolova shares some information about the reasons for this change.
“We had an agreement with the coach that after the Moscow Grand Slam Katya would take a pause to treat her shoulder that had troubled her for the first half of the 2013 season. Also Katya wanted to become a mother since quite some time. Now she is expecting her first child. So we were ready for this change. But the last part of the year we didn’t try to invent anything special with my partner Maria Prokopeva, because we didn’t know exactly what Katya was planning for the 2014 season. Now we know for sure that Khomyakova will nurse her kid and so Maria and I will have to go on playing together. This was also our coach’s decision. We’ll have to face quite some difficulties because we both used to play in defense, so we will have to work on different tactics and get used to this.”
Did you ever play with Prokopeva before?
“Yes, and we even spent together four seasons before she also had a baby and stopped playing for some time. But after that I changed many partners and Maria did the same. Each time you have to adapt yourself to your partner and so in a way you change yourself. So in spite of the fact that we played together for quite some time, we still have very many things to fix. We have a new national coach; we have to learn new skills and a lot of work ahead.”
How did you spend the last month after the last international tournament you played in Durban?
“We had holidays until January 12! That was an old plan. Actually the last season was too long for us as we started to prepare in early December and then played the whole year in a non-stop regime. So everyone needed a rest. Even when we got to know that there would be a tournament in January, we decided not to change this plan. So we needed a little pause. I went to Austria with my sister and our boyfriends and we had a splendid time there. After we came back I received the individual fitness plan and started working in the gym. But frankly speaking that is far not enough to show good results. So as you can see the forthcoming CEV Satellite here in Anapa won’t be an easy tournament for us.”
You are the top team here in Anapa. What does it mean personally to you?
“Well any coin has two sides. From one point of view we are, as I said, not in our best shape, and the sand here in Anapa is very “heavy”. I mean, you do have to be in good shape to move quickly enough on it, to jump high and show your best performance. However, we are athletes and we can’t just throw away some of our goals by saying that we are not ready to compete. From the other side here we will have some teams that will allow us to work on new tactical solutions and find the right chemistry. There also will be some quite strong pairs from Germany and Austria. So we have to do our best to live up to our status and not to lose our face.”
Do you think that indoor Beach Volleyball is real Beach Volleyball? Is there any difference?
“Yes, and it is great. This version seems to me very similar to “ordinary” Volleyball. Only you have sand under your feet. But there is no wind, and no sun and you have a lot of reference points around which is very important in serving and blocking. It is very difficult to receive indoors because the density of the air is different and the ball can take an unpredicted trajectory. On the other hand, I like to work on my blocking skills indoors. Nothing bothers the spiker and so in his movement there is nothing incidental. You fight on equal terms and that’s much more difficult. So some things are harder and some easier when you play indoors.”
What are your plans for this season?
“Well, our biggest goals will be the CEV European Championship Final in Rome and the domestic tournaments. But I suppose that this season will be in some sense experimental. In one year the Olympic qualification will start, so now we have the last chance to try something new.”
Click here for more information on the CEV Satellite tournament in Anapa