Tokyo 2020: Netherlands strengthen sitting volleyball chances
Three-time Paralympian Stinissen hopes home Worlds will boost team
Stinissen believes hosting the 2018 Worlds can boost sitting volleyball in the Netherlands © • Getty Images
Elvira Stinissen is hoping to further spread sitting volleyball across the Netherlands when the country stages the World Championships in July 2018, aiming to increase their strength in depth in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“It’s so great and our federation is organising it in a fantastic way by holding it in different cities and organising with other volleyball disciplines,” she said. “It’s a great promotion for our sport. We had the Europeans in 2011 in Rotterdam, that was amazing, but this will be even better!”
“Sitting volleyball is not well known in The Netherlands and I really hope that this tournament will increase that. I think with the way our federation is organising it, the public will support it.”
The Netherlands quest for a top five finish at next year’s Worlds is within reach after a successful Europeans in Porec, Croatia. The Dutch defeated Finland 3-0 in the bronze medal-game after succumbing to eventual gold medallists Russia in the semi-final.
The preparation and in turn the result was a stark contrast to the events surrounding the 2016 Paralympics, where the Dutch only heard two weeks beforehand that they could participate.
Stinissen said: “It was the worst preparation you can get as an athlete. Rio was crazy. After losing to Russia for the last ticket to Rio, the team started a new phase. When we heard a few weeks beforehand that we could participate because of Russia’s exclusion*, it was just crazy.
“It was amazing to be in Rio, and a good experience for the new players, but you do not want to perform on the highest stage knowing two weeks before the first match.”
Strength in depth
The veteran player is a three-time Paralympian having competed at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, winning bronze at her first Paralympics.
A key aspect that the Beijing 2008 bronze medallist took away from the disappointment of Rio was just how strong the women’s sitting volleyball competition had become.
“Sitting volleyball has had such a development, both in quality and in professionalism. It has become such an amazing sport with strong athletes and teams. Russia, USA and China have very strong spikers and servers.”
For the Netherlands to challenge and sustain a position at the top of the sport, they need to unearth new players, which Elvira admits will be a huge challenge. “Because of the changes in classification rules, we will now lose players, so it will take some time to have a full team again. Sitting volleyball is a very technical sport and you need a lot of hours to improve, so to not only compete, but win against the top nations, we need more time to train together as a team.
“We have very strong competition with Russia, USA, China, Ukraine, Brazil and more developing countries like Canada, all fighting for medals. So our chance to win one at the Worlds is not great. We are going to fight for it but if we make it to the Top 5, then we have to be very proud of ourselves.”
*Editor’s note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.
On 6 September 2017, the IPC put in place a limited interim measure for athletes to compete as neutrals in qualification events across four World Para sports for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. These sports are alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country and snowboard.