Lausanne, Switzerland, February 9, 2020 – Qualifying for the Olympic Games for the first time is not an easy task but being surrounded by people who have already accomplished the feat may ease the way. It is one of the factors driving Argentinean beach volleyball player Fernanda Pereyra's dream of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The 28-year-old blocker seemed fairly distant from her goal back in 2018, when she played amateur volleyball for UPCN in her hometown San Juan. Then, a challenging but irrefutable opportunity crossed her path as she was invited to transition to the sand and pair with Ana Gallay, the country’s most accomplished beach volleyball player ever.
The Argentineans have been partners since then and the team has showed steady progress at the international level, which was highlighted by a first-ever top-ten finish on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and a silver medal won at the Pan-American Games, both obtained in 2019.
“It has been a very intense process for me to be able to play beach volleyball at a high level but also to understand the sport,” Pereyra told FIVB.com. “Playing with Ana has meant constant learning for me. She helped me a lot to deal with all the tactical nuances of the game and her experience has been vital to keep me calm and confident all the time.”
The 34-year-old Gallay qualified to the Rio 2016 Games with former partner Georgina Klug via the FIVB Olympic ranking, but this seems to be an unlikely path for Pereyra and her at this time. The team has compiled just 1,820 points in seven tournaments so far and would need to basically triple that amount to be guaranteed a spot by the June deadline.
Gallay (left) and Pereyra during last year's World Championships
That means the Argentineans start 2020 primarily focused on the Continental Cup, which will qualify one team in each gender per continent for the Tokyo Games. That was the route Gallay took on her first Olympic appearance, in London 2012, with Virginia Zonta.
The South American Continental Cup Final Round will take place between June 22-28 and will feature teams from Argentina competing with duos from three other countries – Brazil and Colombia are guaranteed while Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela play for the final spot in March.
“Qualifying for Tokyo is our main goal right now,” Pereyra reflected. “The Final Round will be played in my hometown San Juan and we understand that in order to have a chance to qualify through the Olympic ranking we’d have to improve our participation and our results on the World Tour. To represent Argentina at the Olympics would be a dream come true and to have a female team competing for the third-straight time, it would speak volumes about the work we’ve been doing.”
Fernanda, however, wouldn’t be the first in her family to have the honour of representing Argentina on the biggest stage in international sport. Her older brother, Federico, was part of the country’s volleyball team that finished fifth at the London 2012 Games.
The 31-year-old opposite missed the Rio 2016 Games, but reappeared in great fashion during the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, when he played in nine of Argentina’s 15 matches and had an impressive 26-point performance against Brazil in Tokyo.
He was also frequently used by head coach Marcelo Méndez during the Olympic Qualification tournament in China, last August.
“To qualify for the Olympics and to be able to share this experience with my brother would be the icing on the cake,” Fernanda commented. “We started playing volleyball together and we still help and support each other a lot. He’s always been a reference and an inspiration for me. I know he’s working hard to be in the team for the Games and I’m doing the same here. Hopefully it works out well for both of us.”