They say that the dream of every athlete is participating in the Olympic games. Clearly, that is a target I could never achieve parallel to studies in SSE Riga or in my life at all whatsoever, but, during this summer I got as close to the dream as I could. In terms of prestige, scale and level, Universiade is the second after the Olympic games. Moreover, Latvian Women’s Volleyball National Team has not participated in this event since 1993. With the help of Leif Mutén Society and many other sponsors we managed to acquire all the funds that were needed to cover our team’s participation fee, but that was only one part of the preparation. After the Students’ Women National Team was formed, we started our journey already at the spring. We practiced throughout all summer at least twice a day and experienced the most devastating phases in terms of team forming and physical pain. The time passed quickly after all, and on August 15th we travelled across Asia and arrived in Taiwan.
During the first days my biggest impression was about the event itself. Athletes Village (accommodation for all the participants) was a freshly built district of 20-storey apartment buildings, just for us. In order to just cross the Village, one would need 15 minutes as minimum and the dining hall would have the capacity of 5000 people. Moreover, the level of security. Every time we entered the Village, we had to fulfil a security check similar to what airports do and an ordinary practice was to be guarded by a fully-armed S.W.A.T unit.
After few days of practicing and not seeing much more than the gym, there was the Grand Opening Ceremony. As excited we were about entering the Olympic Stadium with 30,000 sport fans and 10,000 participants cheering us, as bitter our disappointment was when the organisers announced that the opening parade will be cancelled due to the riot outside. Simple, Taiwan has been fighting for its independence from China since the last century, and such event, the biggest independently organised international event in Taiwan, was a great opportunity for them to show the world what Taiwan people want. After a good hour of doubts, we were allowed to participate in the parade, enjoy the brilliant show and feel pure happiness of being there at the moment.
In total we played 6 games against Thailand, USA, Japan, Brazil, Columbia and Canada, from which we won only the game against Colombia and therefore finished the tournament in the 14th place. Of course, the surprise was rather unpleasant when we would see volleyball-stars from the biggest volleyball-countries entering the gym, but still we fought at every game for every point. The truth is, in order to compete with professional top-notch athletes we would need three more years, not three months of full-time practicing, but I would say that we played as good as we could and it was not easy for them to win us after all. Personally, I have made a huge progress and I have also acquired a ton of knowledge about the game and I am sure that it will help me and the team to compete in the Baltic league in the upcoming seasons.
After playing we had three last days to observe the Taipei city and explore the beautiful nature of Taiwan. We climbed a mountain to see the Teapot mountain, swimmed in between rocks, enjoyed the tallest skyscraper in Taipei, got dizzy and sometimes nauseous of the smells on the food streets, experienced the vibration of the Taiwan Night Markets and the peace of Buddhist Temples, and more and more.
I am sure that so far it was the event of my lifetime and I would never take back the effort I spent to get there. I was so happy to defend my country and at the same time to see and meet 141 different cultures around me. To every SSE Rigan I would wish the qualities of Taiwanese people: fighting for your dreams respectfully, smiling and keeping positive even when working very very hard and, of course, making a good money!
Thank you, Leif Mutén Society!