At the last Women’s Champions League Final Four in Baku, Azerbaijan, two FIVB Heroes really made their mark: Kim Yeon-Koung of Fenerbahce Istanbul and Ekaterina Gamova of Zanit Kazan. The former took home the gold medal and the MVP and Best Scorer awards, while the latter came third. But what do they have in common apart from their amazing talent? Their eastern origins: Gamova hails from the far east of Europe, Kim from the far east of Asia.
Ekaterina Gamova was born in Chelyabinsk the capital of the eponymous region in the Russian Urals. This city of over 1 million inhabitants is an important centre for the country’s metallurgy industry – and a very cold place to live, with average winter temperatures dropping close to -10°C! In the early 1990’s, this future star and FIVB Hero began her volleyball career in a local club called Voleybolnyi Klub Avtodor-Metar. From these humble beginnings, it took her only a couple of years to join the ranks of the Russian national team, where she is playing to this day. But Ekaterina is not the only famous daughter of Chelyabinsk in the world of volleyball. Yevgeniya Startseva, the current setter in Russia’s national squad, was born in the same place as Gamova in 1986 and started out playing in the same club – clearly fertile ground for volleyball greatness!
Far far away from the Urals, and eight years after Gamova’s birth, Kim Yeon-Koung was born in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. This megalopolis of over 10 million inhabitants has claimed its rightful place as one of the most important financial and commercial centres of the world and played host to several of the planet’s biggest sports events such as the Summer Olympics in 1988 and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Sport has always been an integral part of life in Seoul, so Kim Yeon-Koung was in the right place to start playing volleyball. She rose to fame with Incheon Hungkuk Life Insurance Pink Spiders, winning three national titles with the team before moving to Japan in 2009, then Turkey in 2011.
Two different women, two different cities, but the same eastern origins, the same role in the field (both are opposites) and, of course, the same unstoppable talent. Interestingly, Kim Yeon-Koung is sometimes referred to as “the Asian Gamova” – and they are both united in their well-earned roles as real FIVB Heroes!