Yumilka Ruiz [CUB] on the battle for Volleyball gold at Sydney 2000


I was one of the main star players of the team. We were the strongest team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and we had been preparing to defend against that. We knew the kind of responsibility that we had as there had never been a triple Olympic champion, in consecutive Olympics. Russia had the best players, they were a team very difficult to defeat
due to their height and strength. We were evenly matched, but on the last points of the set, I missed a lot of points. No one wants to miss those kind of points, but it is the nerves of the first points, the responsibility, pressure.
They make you miss the points. We lost that set. When we lost the first set, we changed court side. Our coaches, told us
“You need to concentrate, you are trying to rush things”. We went out to try to do things well. But in the second set, everything remained the same.
We tried our best, but it just didn’t go our way. To finish the second set 34-32,
we knew we had played that set better. We knew we could do this, we knew what we needed to do. When we changed court side, we didn’t speak to each other. I will never forget that, we knew this was our last chance, it was now or never. We realised that we were trying to do a lot.
Without using our head. We started to play more relaxed. That way, we slowly started to play our game. And that third set, we won it. Before we started the fourth set, our coaches told us “You haven’t won anything, you are losing.
But you are the ones losing, the Russians are not winning.” We went out to the fourth set feeling refreshed, focused and confident. On the fourth set, we did feel confident that we were the Cuban team. On the 16th point, we had an advantage. Our coaches told us, “There is nothing left, if we go backwards we lose,” “and if we lose, we lose the gold medal, we need to keep going.” “Keep playing the way you are playing, and you will see we will get the result.” The fourth set we won it very comfortably, After we won that set, we knew that the match was finally even. We could not control properly one of their serves. At the beginning of the set,
we tend to have evenly matched scores. One of my team mates, passed the ball from zone 2, away from the net. I had triple blocked and I jumped. I don’t know what height I reached
but because it was a high pass and I had time to jump. When I jumped, I remember I hit the ball above the triple block. Against a Russian team, who is very hard to aim,
due to their height and they block very well. You can imagine the adrenaline that I had.
To be able to spike with a triple block. I will always remember that point. Because I looked at my team mates and I told them “I did it”. On the match point, we were serving,
the Russian team were receiving. Our block touches the ball and it goes flying upwards, Marlen Costa passes the ball
and Taimares Aguero fakes a spike Two of the Russian blockers jump Taimares sees the block,
so she passes the ball to De La Torre. There was no one near the net from the Russian team to block the ball. When De La Torre scored the last point, we ran to each other, we hugged each other, we laughed, we kissed, we cried. At that moment, someone tried to interview me. “Yumilka, how are you feeling?” “I am very…” I was not able to talk. All I can remember is that I tried to stay calm but started to cry. When we got to the Olympic Village, we were all able to speak to our families in Cuba. That moment was fantastic. Everyone in Cuba was awake for us, that was the best thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *