Oleg Stoyanovskiy: The world champion growing beach volleyball in Russia

The 23-year-old hopes his title win last year will increase the stature of the sport in his home country.

When Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov won the beach volleyball world title in Hamburg, Germany, last year, Stoyanovsky knew things would change.

The pair became the first Russians to win a world title in the sport, with Stoyanovskiy becoming the youngest world champion ever aged 22.

It was a win that elevated the public consciousness of beach volleyball in Russia.

"Both fans and the coaches began to demand more from us," Stoyanovskiy told the Russian Olympic Committee's website. "The attention towards us increased and I hope our victory helped promote beach volleyball in Russia.

"This is a great sport that everyone can practice."

Youth victories

Winning a big tournament wasn't new to Stoyanovskiy, however.

At the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, he partnered Artem Yarzutkin to gold in the men's beach volleyball tournament, again becoming the first Russians to win an Olympic tournament in beach volleyball.

"At that time, it really was a great achievement," he said. "We got a feel of what the Olympics are like. Winning is always nice, especially at a once-in-a-lifetime event with age restrictions."

That taste of winning continued to follow Stoyanovskiy, who also won European age-group titles at under-18 and under-22 level. But the added attention brings with it its own challenges.

"After the victory in Hamburg, of course we are among the favourites at every tournament. That adds to the pressure."

However, the world title has given Stoyanovskiy a platform to advance his cause.

"We are stamped as world champs for the rest of our lives and I hope we use this popularity to promote our sport and get more people involved in it. All you need to practice it is shorts, a T-shirt and some warm weather, plus a ball.”

Cold beach volleyball

The Moscow native hasn't always played beach volleyball in warm weather, though.

Recalling the worst tournament weather-wise he played in, he chose one in his home city. "It snowed during the Moscow three-star (FIVB World Tour event) in June 2017, it was cold and uncomfortable to play. But we still won a medal."

That doesn't mean he doesn't like the cold weather.

Asked to name his favourite tournament, Stoyanovskiy elected the World Tour round in Gstaad, Switzerland.

"[It's] a tournament at an altitude of 1000 metres in the Swiss Alps," he said. "Very beautiful. Snow a few kilometres above you, a mountain river flowing nearby, cows grazing… it's like the cover of a chocolate bar."

Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia spikes during the semi final of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia spikes during the semi final of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia spikes during the semi final of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Favourite players

Despite being a beast of a player on the beach, the Russian also enjoys watching the indoor version of the game too, electing Wilfredo Leon, Egor Kliuka, and Ricardo Lucarelli as his favourite players from the court.

(Leon, a Cuban-born Polish international, recently spoke to the Olympic Channel about his career.)

Given the choice, which non-Russian would Stoyanovskiy choose to partner? An Olympic champion, unsurprisingly. "Bruno Schmidt (of Brazil), a somewhat obvious choice.

"He is experienced and he's got good passing technique; it would be interesting."

And given his quest to spread the word about his sport, he has one match in mind newcomers to beach volleyball should watch, involving Schmidt.

"There are many [matches to watch]. But in terms of unpredictability, I can pinpoint one exactly.

"The Rio 2016 Olympic quarterfinal between [Phil] Dalhausser and [Nick] Lucena (of the United States) and Alison [Cerutti] and Bruno."

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