Ostrava, Czech Republic, June 23, 2018 – Two-time Olympian Konstantin Semenov is enjoying his second life as a beach volleyballer. His first ended after the Games in Rio, when he decided to return to indoor volleyball. However, after one season away from the sand, the Russian standout is back with a new partner and doing well on the FIVB World Tour.
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After three seasons on the Tour with various partners, Semenov went to London for his first Olympic Games, where he and Serguey Prokopyev finished ninth after one win and three defeats. The following year he won his first World Tour gold, together with Yaroslav Koshkarev, before teaming up with Viacheslav Krasilnikov, with whom he also managed to win one gold medal on the Tour in 2014. Semenov had a strong 2016 season alongside Krasilnikov, which culminated with a fourth place at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“My first time at the Olympics was a lot more emotional. We got to see what the Olympic atmosphere was like, we went sightseeing in the city,” reminisces Semenov. “We had had only one month to prepare, unlike other teams who work for three or four years towards the Olympic Games. The second time was different. Krasilnikov and I had prepared well and were in good condition, with good tactics, good ability, good staff... And we were so close to getting a medal. We lost our semifinal by two points. Very sad, but that’s life!”
And then Semenov “disappeared”... Right after advancing to the quarterfinals at the four-star stop taking place in Ostrava this week, Semenov takes the time to share his perspective.
“This was my decision. I discussed it with my wife, with my family, and decided to have a break, because I was spending ten months out of twelve away from my daughter and the rest of my family,” Semenov says. “I tried going back to indoor volleyball, but after seven or eight years of playing beach volleyball my body was not ready for it. So with my wife’s blessing – she knows how much I love beach volleyball – and with a new partner, I am giving beach volleyball a second try. Now that I work with a club, separately from our federation, I get to spend more time with my family.”
Ilya Leshukov sets the ball for Konstantin Semenov
29-year-old Konstantin Semenov and his 22-year-old partner Ilya Leshukov have been pretty active on the Tour since the start of 2018. Without ranking points, they have started every tournament from the qualifications, but managed to even snatch their first medal together – gold at the Mersin three-star in May.
“Konstantin is a good blocker and a good player with a lot of experience. I learn a lot from him and we try to gradually improve as a team,” points out Leshukov. “Our goal is always the highest possible – to win the final, but what’s most important is to perform well, play some good beach volleyball and, then, whatever happens, because the other teams are good too.”
Ilya Leshukov in action
“Ilya and I decided to play together this season and see what we can do as a team. Before the season we had zero points and our main goal was to do well at the European Championship,” Semenov adds. “But we started progressing on the World Tour, playing better and better from one tournament to the next and collecting points. Our target remains the European Championship, but now we are hoping to do well at four- and five-star World Tour events too. We are not setting any long-term goals, because we are trying this partnership for one season to see what happens. Maybe it proves difficult, maybe Ilya wants to change partners, maybe I am not in a good condition… Everything is possible.”
For Semenov and Leshukov everything is still possible at the Ostrava tournament this weekend, because they are still unbeaten and already in the quarterfinals.
“We started from the qualifications. We were not in a good condition for our first match after our trip and did not play a good game against the Czech team. Our second game, against Norway, was better. It was a good game, we played better and we won 2-1,” Semenov comments.
Semenov against his previous partner in their first main draw match at Ostrava
Ironically, in their first main draw match Semenov had to face his previous partner Viacheslav Krasilnikov.
“Our first game in the pool was very important. Slava and I know each other very well and it was a big and hard fight. There was an extra motivation to win this match, especially for him. We won, but we are happy to win every game. Krasilnikov is a very good player, but he prefers to be part of the national federation programme, while I prefer to go a different way. I hope he plays well. Good luck to him and to Nikita Liamin, good luck to all Russian players!”
No matter what happens next, it is clear that for now Semenov and Leshukov are doing well as a team and they are certainly happy to compete in Ostrava.
“I like the introduction of Czech Republic industrial style. This place is unbelievable!” Konstantin Semenov concludes. “I am happy with this tournament…”