Ekaterina Gamova's return to the Russia team sent shockwaves through the volleyball world
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 26, 2014 - When Ekaterina Gamova announced her return to the Russian national team for the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship in Italy, she sent shockwaves through the volleyball world. Gamova is one of the tallest players around, she is also regarded as one of the best volleyball players in the world. Whoever “Catherine the Great” plays for tends to win titles.
That was certainly the case in this year's club competitions: Gamova not only led her club Dynamo Kazan to her tenth Russian championship title, but she also led her team to triumphs in the European Champions League and the FIVB Club World Championship. The outstanding points-scorer was also named MVP at each of these events. She had actually planned to devote her time to her family and husband this summer, as she did last year, but then came a phone call from the coach of the Russian national team, Yuriy Marichev.
“Well, I have to admit that last May I had categorically ruled out my return to the national team,” Gamova said. “This was totally out of the question until I received a phone call from our coach. Yuriy Marichev called me and he proposed that I would return to the national team and play at the World Championship in Italy. I thanked him and explained that I was being caught by surprise. I would consider his proposal and call back once I had made up my mind. I shared my thoughts with the club in Kazan and also with my family. After three days, during which I consulted the people that are closest to me, I decided to give it a go.”
Gamova had retired from international volleyball after the bitter quarterfinal defeat to fierce rivals Brazil at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when the Russian team failed to convert match points. Now she is back – not for the money, but because she wants “to win another title with my native Russia”. After victories in 2006 and 2010, this would be the third win in a row, and would thus complete a hat-trick of titles. Only the Soviet Union has achieved this feat, between 1952 and 1960.
Gamova is particularly wary of the threat posed by Olympic champions Brazil, who are yet to win a World Championship title. The attacker was a key factor in the last two FIVB World Championship finals won by Russia. In 2006, she scored 28 points in the 3-2 win, and surpassed even that with a remarkable 35 points in the 2010 triumph. This performance also saw her named the championship’s MVP, one of the countless individual awards bestowed upon Ekaterina Gamova. Her size is not the only thing that makes her such an extraordinary player – she also possesses a powerful jump and is very mobile.
Even as a child in her home city of Chelyabinsk, it was clear that she was one of the most talented players this century. At the age of eight, she began playing volleyball under the guidance of her aunt. By eleven, she was already 1.72m tall and opted for volleyball over basketball and handball. She soon set about winning titles as a youth team player, like the World Youth Championship title in 1999. Her dazzling play and utter dominance earned her the nickname “Game Over”. In the same year, she also won the European Championship title with the Russian national team.
Many more titles were to follow, but one major triumph is missing from “Catherine the Great”'s collection: Olympic gold. The 33-year-old, who is one of the most famous female sports stars in Russia, will line up for her fifth shot at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. However, Ekaterina Gamova is not even considering that yet: “I am not thinking about the future. I have decided to come back and to play for Russia at the World Championship this year and that’s it for the time being. I just want to play to win, and defend the honour of our country, as well as the World Championship titles that we won in 2006 and 2010.”
Russia, who are currently top of Pool C after three
matches and as many wins, are qualified for Round 2 of the Women's World
Championship. They take on the Netherlands and the United States in their
last two Round 1 matches this weekend.