2017-01-31 10:45:00 CEST

More Than Sports: A new start

Marta Menegatti is looking forward after a tough year

Marta Menegatti is excited. “I can’t wait to play in the first Major of the season,” the Italian beach volleyball player told us. When the Fort Lauderdale Major starts on February 7, it will be the first tournament for the 26-year-old with her new partner Rebecca Perry. “It’s a test for us as a new team and an opportunity for us to set the bar for improvement.”

They left for America last Saturday in order to prepare in the best way possible for the tournament. Normally Menegatti/Perry practice in Rome with their coaches Lissandro Carvalho and Terenzio Feroleto.

But the main goal of the new combination will be the next Olympics, in Tokyo in 2020. “The road is still very long,” Marta says. “Now I prefer to put all my energy on the present and short-term goals such as the qualification to the World Championships in Vienna and the European Finals in Jurmala. 

#Repost @becky_perry ・・・ Flying south for the winter 🦅 Florida here we come 🌴☀️ #fortlauderdale #swatchmajorseries #fivb #ineedatan #butiam #foreverpink

See this Instagram photo by @marta_menegatti * 486 likes 

Making a fresh start was not easy for the 1.80-meter tall defender. Shortly before the start of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Italian volleyball federation expelled her partner Viktoria Orsi Toth because she tested positive for clostebol metabolite. Menegatti/Orsi Toth won silver at the Under-21 World Championships 2010 together, and since 2013, they enjoyed success on the FIVB World Tour – but suddenly Marta was standing alone. “I will never forget the feelings on that day – August 2,” she says. “I felt lost, hopeless, it was like if I had been deprived of one half of myself. I still feel a deep anxiety thinking back to those moments, it was terrible.”

The combination Menegatti/Perry almost happened for the Olympics. U.S.-born Rebecca, who is an Italian citizen, was chosen to substitute Orsi Toth as the FIVB permits Italy to nominate a player. That was also the subject of criticism. “It’s a piece of impudence to use the injury replacement rule in that case,” Olympic Champion Kira Walkenhorst said. “You don’t take such a substance by accident.” In team sports, the player gets punished, not the team, that’s how FIVB explained the decision. Beach volleyball is considered a team sport, just like indoor volleyball.

Sorrisi e sabbia.... #italiateam pronta a scendere in campo 🇮🇹 #marty #martaelaura #rio2016 #beabeacher @italiateam @federazioneitalianapallavolo

See this Instagram photo by @marta_menegatti * 1,056 likes

However, Rebecca did not play in the required 12 FIVB events during the Olympic qualification period, so the FIVB did not allow her to compete and her partner during the 2016 season, Laura Giombini, was chosen instead. She also played the World Tour Final in Toronto with Marta. “We shared many amazing moments,” Marta says. But Laura is defensive player like Marta and plays the same position. In Rio they had to find a solution: Marta changed to the left side, while the 1.83-meter tall Laura became a part-time blocker after only two practices together. “I will always be internally grateful to Laura, but now for me it’s the beginning of a new adventure with Rebecca,” Marta says.

Viktoria Orsi Toth decision set for February 2

The 1.91-meter tall Perry belongs to an ever-growing squad of former professional indoor players who are changing to the beach. As well as Manon Nummerdor-Flier and Maggie Kozuch, who will play their first international beach volleyball tournament in Fort Lauderdale, 28-year-old Rebecca has the advantage that she already experienced the FIVB World Tour in 2016. “She is really good in the role of blocker,” Marta says. “She has considerable physical skills, a good technique and a great determination. I am very happy, that she decided to fight by my side in this season full of many tournaments and important challenges.”

Similarly, former partner Viktoria Orsi Toth is still in her mind: “I always tried to stay by her side, even if the situation wasn’t easy,” Marta says. “I maintain the belief that the positive doping test was not her fault and I hope she will receive justice soon. I would like very much to play again with her. We talked about this possibility, but everything will depend on the Anti-Doping Tribunal judgment.”

Viktoria is awaiting final judgement is for February 2.

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