Brno, Czech Republic, June 29, 2017 – He has already fulfilled one volleyball dream this year - he added a Czech men’s Extraliga gold with Jihostroj Ceske Budejovice to his medal collection. He is currently experiencing another dream - at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship he is the captain of the Czech national team
and, moreover, the tournament is taking place in his home town of Brno. 20-year-old setter Kristian Cervinka
speaks to Czech volleyball journalist Barbora Mertova, while enjoying a full sip of home atmosphere at the championship.
This year you won the Czech championship with Jihostroj! The final series was played in six matches. How big of a drama was it?
The drama was tremendous starting with the first match in the quarterfinals with Euro Sitex Pribram. It all culminated in the last home match, attended by nearly three thousand spectators, and we, young players on the bench, had no place to stand. When I take a look back, no one expected this from us during the season, and as Radek Mach said, "we were outsiders before the playoffs."
You have reached the title in all youth categories as well...
Yes, I have the complete collection. The first title was in the U16 boys’ category under coach Oravec, who literally collected youth titles. It was a great victory for me, and it was my best years. The one in the U18 category was under Jiri Petru, who started coaching me when I was a little, hairy boy with oversized shoes in the preparation stage. The most interesting thing about this title was that we had dyed our hair black, and then most of us suffered for another six months. The U20 junior title under Jaroslav Samsula is the most valuable to me because we were two sets down and 20-23 in the third set, but we finally reversed the match and won the tie-breaker by 15-13! In addition, it was at home at a packed hall in Brno.
So next season you are returning to South Bohemia?
Yes, I am coming back to play for Volejbal Brno next season. I started playing volleyball here at the age of nine. At home they always told me to sign up for everything. So, after only a few trainings, when our coach asked who was free on Sunday, I raised my hand first. I think I touched the ball about two times and one time it even went over the net.
Which of your volleyball achievements do you remember the most?
In my volleyball life I have the so-called top four moments. The first one is the above-mentioned junior title. The second moment is a 3-2 win against Serbia which qualified us for the U19 European Championship after it had been 10 years since the last participation of the Czech team. The third is my first Extraliga match in the men’s category in Kladno. When I was getting ready to play I shivered like a little boy, but eventually I managed to perform victoriously in this match. And the fourth time was last year’s bronze series in the Extraliga where I was the only setter because captain Filip Habr was injured. So, I earned my first Extraliga medal. I hope that there will be a fifth time very soon...
You are the captain of the current U21 team...
Yes, I have been wearing the tape since the first match of this team and it has always been a great honour for me. I also realize that I am responsible for the entire team, whether we succeed or not.
In what events have you participated with the national team so far?
Under coach Jiri Zach, I played at the 2015 U19 European Championship. Jiri Zach was a great personality for us. He taught us everything he knows in the volleyball craft. At the time, we won all three MEVZA tournaments without a single defeat, so no one had defeated us before the start of EuroVolley. We started the championship very well. After the second match, however, our game began to collapse, and, as a team, we fell into pieces. Finally, we finished in seventh place, which was a great disappointment for all of us as we had definitely had higher ambitions. Thanks to this placement, we got to the Youth Olympic Games, where we finished in fourth place and concluded the two-year cycle with Jiri Zach. Then, our current coach Ivan Pelikan took us under his wing. We advanced to the U20 European Championship with him. It was played in Varna, Bulgaria last year, but, unfortunately, we did not succeed at all. Despite good performances against strong opponents, we finished 10th.
What does playing in the U21 World Championship in the Czech Republic mean to you? Is this a big challenge?
For me personally, it is the biggest one. It is my dream. It is definitely the top event for junior volleyball. Moreover, it is taking place in Brno, my home town.