Jerzy Miloski, Polsat Sport: We meet a few hours before the Polish national team leaves for Rimini. Let’s start with what awaits us in the near future, because the Olympic Games are known to be the most important. What are the goals of the League of Nations? What do you want to achieve with “the bubble” in Rimini?
Wilfredo Lyon, host of the Polish national team: First, we want to be healthy. Second, we want to play at a high level and build shape for games. Third, we want to win a League of Nations medal, and we want to improve the result of the previous edition.
It was a different lineup then. I dreamed of being promoted to the Olympics and that was the main goal. The Tokyo concert has been postponed. Did you get in the way of the prestigious gold medal in any way?
– Yes, but I hope we’re in good shape. We are all training at a high level and we will definitely fight.
Poland is the leading candidate for the gold medal in the Olympiad?
– Everyone says that.
Who will be the most dangerous competitor?
Brazil and the United States. As always, the Russians and the Italians will be dangerous.
They are a strong team but they have their problems. There are a few teams to watch out for.
Wilfredo, your volleyball and your private life were complicated too. It had different moments. In 2012, she stopped playing for the Cuban national team. She waited seven years to play for the national team again. Did you miss national volleyball?
– Of course I missed. I played at a very high level for the club, but I wanted to play for the Polish national team. In the end it worked and I’m very happy with it. Now is the moment when I can prove that I am Polish and that I want to do everything for our country.
Then, in 2012, the Cuban national team qualified for the Olympics, do you think your life could have turned differently?
It doesn’t matter because I have my plans anyway. I am a person who loves spending time with my family, and when I miss it, it becomes difficult for me to focus on my work. Then I decided that this was the last year I would play for Cuba. If we had been promoted, I would have resigned after the Olympics.
So your path will be the same?
2010 – I won second place in the world with the Cuban national team. Then she lost to Brazil in the Grand Final. You were 17 at the time and at such a young age you were already at the pinnacle of volleyball. Furthermore, he made his debut with the national team at the age of 14. Do you remember that first appearance, with whom you were playing with at the time?
– I participated for the first time in the match against Russia. We were losing 2: 0. I got on the pitch, scored a few points and won the group, but in the end the Russians were better. I was happy with myself because it was the first time that I had played against a strong team like Russia at that time. I felt so good on the field, I did everything I could at the time.
But you were 14 years old and you were playing against young adults. We checked for an error, but it was correct. Tell me why did you choose volleyball? You are so thoroughly trained and mechanically prepared that you may well prove yourself in many other disciplines.
There are athletes in my family. My mother and uncle played volleyball. I was a very active child and my mother was afraid of my energy and directed me towards sports. The impulse came from her. It was fun at first. It started with the girls’ coach who agreed without any problems. I was 6-7 years old and the girls were 10 years old. They were already training with balls, and I was learning this technique. Then I started training with the players. I was also into baseball at the same time, and I was doing really well too. But I fell in love with volleyball thanks to my mum and uncle, because I often witnessed this discipline with them. I chose the path that I follow to this day.
Your career has been fueling her. You finally found Zenit Kazan, with whom she has achieved everything. Tell me about Russian volleyball, what happened there? You are a god there, says Bartosh Bednors, who represents the colors of Zenith. Why do many Poles fail in Russia? However, this is a specific league. Everyone who returns from it says that it is not an easy thing. I did it. Why does this happen? Of course you are a great volleyball player, but the mindset out there has to be specific to be successful.
The Russian League is the hardest and not just volleyball. You travel a lot and therefore don’t have much time to rest. You have to work hard in the gym to stay in shape. Second, Russia is a great country and the time zones change frequently. For me, this is a big minus. I played there for a long time and won a lot. What helped me a lot in Russia was a mental problem. My family, with whom I spoke every day, helped me a lot. I managed to avoid depression during the four years I spent there. It certainly isn’t easy to play in Russia.
Should you have cheered on Partytech Bednors? This season was not what Bartek dreamed of. Have you talked about that?
– Yeah. I think he played well. Maybe not everything was done perfectly, but he has shown that he can play at a high level in Russia.
Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Ko elimle spent Zenit en route to the Champions League Grand Final. You and Perugia won the Italian Vice Championship, and in the Champions League, you also ran like Zenit. Have you talked about ZAKS? How would you rate the performance of this team during the season?
– In my opinion, Zaksa played amazingly well.
Did you expect ZAKSA to play volleyball well?
Frankly, I wasn’t expecting, but after every match I liked it. Their road was really hard to reach the final as they showed they are the best. A big applause, Zaks.
Have you ever seen Nikola Gerbich cry?
I saw him in Verona in the Champions League. Great job for the coach, great work for the players and the entire staff.
You have good connections with Olek Śliwka. You can see that you have a chain of understanding. Olek became the best player in the UEFA Champions League Final, just like you in Zenit colors. It’s a big deal for him.
– exactly. Olek played exceptionally well in the final and undoubtedly deserved the MVP title. I wasn’t in the final, because my heart hurts so much – I wanted to play this match myself, but I watched the whole match and watched Olek’s performance.
There is another famous name in Poland. He was called up to the national team by Camille Seminyuk for the first time. How would you rate this player? It looks like he’s made enormous progress. How do you see his future with the national team?
– A very good player and his teammate off the field. He talks little, but he does a lot.
You’ll admit that when it comes to acting and your site as a host, the competition is fierce. Wilfredo Leon, Michae Kubic, Thomas Fornal, Bartoche Koalic, Bartoche Buddenurs, Alec Alyuka, Camille Seminyuk …
– Artur Szalbuk
We can exchange and exchange this way. Perhaps no representation in the world has such potential.
– exactly. On my site, we have a lot of good players and thanks to that, the coach has a lot to choose from.
You and Mishai Kubik are mentioned as an absolute certainty. You are convinced that you are going to the Olympics.
– (Laughs) I work a lot and it brings effects. I do my best with every training session.
I read an interview with you, in which you said that you faced your first appearance in the Polish national team. Was it really like that? It was a difficult moment for you, realizing that all of Poland was waiting for Wilfredo Leon? Did you feel pressured during your debut?
Not really, because I had the opportunity to meet fans early. I was then after a hard training in the gym my form was not optimal.
Did Vital Heinen surprise you while your coach was at the club? Did he teach you anything? Can Wilfredo Leon learn anything else at all?
I still have a lot to learn. Working with Vital was excellent. I have taken a step forward in many ways. The coach repeats that you can learn something every day and it is true. Vital shows us that we can do something new every day and improve our skills.
Say it honestly. Have you ever had a fight with Vital?
– Definitely. Sport is a passion and I know Vital doesn’t do it on purpose. I also get feelings. Everything is fine between us and we quickly forget such moments.
Do you love each other?
– Yes Yes.
We calmed down. The League of Nations begins on Friday. You will play 15 matches. All meetings can be watched on Polsat Sports Channels. For you, this event is, however, a preparatory phase for the Olympics. This is how you deal with it?
Exactly, but we are ambitious and we don’t just go out to play a match. In the League of Nations, we also want to achieve success which is why we aim for a medal, but also mainly for proper preparation for mental games.
This is a different league of nations than usual. In one place, in Rimini, Italy, a three-match system and a three-day break. From your point of view, it’s better or worse, because I’ve heard opinions from volleyball players that this system is better than playing every week.
There are pros and cons. We will be staying in one hotel, with virtually no exit. We will spend 70 percent of our time in our rooms. I’m curious how it will look like there, how it will be organized for the various teams, and also in terms of training. As far as I know, each team will get three hours. For some, it will be a lot, for others it will be a little. we will see.
Where are you going to play next season? There are rumors that you will be moving to St. Petersburg.
In Perugia I have an important contract for another year. I stay and keep fighting.
And one more thing. Will Wilfredo Leon be the owner of PlusLiga? There was a lot of media coverage about you and Michae Kubik taking control of Ferva Warsaw. How is it really?
– There is some truth to that. At the moment, I am the owner of UMK Angels Toruń. We look forward to hearing from the owners of Verva what they decide.