2018-10-31 10:00:00 CET
The desire of putting Greece back in the Olympics made the veteran return to the sands
Vasiliki Arvaniti is just five events short of becoming the women with most tournaments played in the Beach Volleyball World Tour, but she believes she still didn’t have enough of it. Competing internationally since 2003, the 33-year-old Greek took a break in 2016 but she’s on her way back to the sand and has rejoined Penny Karagkouni.
A three-time Olympian, Arvaniti, known onthe Tour as Vicky, gave birth to her first son, Nikolas, last May, and since then the desire of returning to the courts has grown inside her. The start of the qualification process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, last month, was the push she needed to make a decision.
“I never felt like I had really retired,” the Greek explained to beachmajorseries.com. “I just thought that I needed a break to focus on my family and my studies after 14 years playing in the Tour. I always thought about returning, but my priority was to have a baby and as time passed I eventually considered not coming back. But after Nikolas was born I realized that I needed to make a decision because it was getting too late for me to return in condition to compete for an Olympic berth. It was now or never.”
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Vicky’s motivation to return has also something to do with the recent struggles of Greek beach volleyball. During the time the left-handed defender was sidelined, the country was put away from the elite of the sport, failing to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics and in last year’s World Championships.
A three-time Olympian, having competed in Athens 2004 with Efthalia Koutroumanidou, in Beijing 2008 with Vasso Karadassiou and in London 2012 with Maria Tsiartsiani, the veteran is determined to help her country to regain its prominence in the international scene.
“It’s really disappointing that Greece didn’t manage to take part in any high level tournament lately,” Vicky rued. “We had several strong teams in the past and qualified to four straight Olympics from Sydney 2000 to London 2012. That was certainly something that kept me motivated during the time I was off the courts.”
If motivation will take care of itself, the Greek veteran knows she will need to be on top of her form to compete among the elite. That’s why instead of rushing for an immediate return, Vicky is taking her time to work on her body as she prepares her comeback.
Competing internationally since 2003, Vicky, who won a World Tour stop in Stavanger, Norway, in 2005, is setting her eyes on next year and she should be entered to compete in the 2019 Fort Lauderdale Major.
“The plan is to return in 2019,” the defender added. “I tried to keep in shape during my pregnancy doing some different activities. I had Nikolas in May and returned to the gym two months ago and to the sands more recently. I need some time to be fit, but the first signs have been very positive. The level is getting higher in every Olympic quad and taller players are getting into the game, so it’s not easy to start from the bottom and you need to be prepared.”
As preparation advances, so does the Greek’s level of confidence. After all, she’s willing to commit all she has to a fifth Olympic run and this time that includes being away from the little Nikolas for extended periods of the time.
“Returning after two years is a big challenge,” she acknowledged. “I’m working really hard to be back in shape and I absolutely wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe Penny and I can do it. I’ll sacrifice time with my family for our goal of qualifying to Tokyo. We know the road is tough but we’ll work hard to get here and hopefully my experience helps.”