Porec, Croatia, June 22, 2016 - Luciana Pierangeli and Simone Sittig are having the time of their life traveling around the world and representing South Africa on the FIVB World Tour.
An Information Technology specialist, Pierangeli was “inspired to play Beach Volleyball after watching the London 2012 Olympic Games.”
Sittig, who specializes in sports injury management, orthopedic injury rehab and pain management, said she was inspired to play Volleyball “by a charismatic chemistry teacher. He single-handedly lifted the level of indoor volleyball at school level in Johannesburg.”
After establishing themselves in their chosen professions, Pierangeli and Sittig took advantage of their inspirations and started playing on the international Beach Volleyball circuit at the end of the 2014 when South Africa hosted an event in Mangaung.
Since the December 2014 events, Pierangeli and Sittig participated in six events in 2015 and have played in nine FIVB World Tour stops this season. So far, the experiences of meeting and watching the world’s best players have by far out-weighed the South Africans performance on the sand where the pair is winless in 18 matches.
Luciana Pierangeli (left) and Simone Sittig with Mikasa at April's Fuzhou Open
“First of all, we are very grateful that the South Africa Volleyball Federation has supported us in competing on the FIVB World Tour,” said the 35-year old Sittig. “While we all have the dream of becoming world champions, realistically, it is my dream to become the best player I can be, and in doing so inspire others to go for their dreams, regardless how high a mountain they have to climb to start the journey. We hope to inspire other South African teams to follow in our footsteps and giving it a go on the world tour, finding sponsors and paving their own way to maximize their potential and goals. It isn't easy, but it is possible.”
Despite their record on the FIVB World Tour, Pierangeli and Sittig have seen improvement in their game at the past two events in Germany and Poland. “We are not a big team, so ball-handling and defense is crucial. We are also very grateful to the players on the tour for practicing with us and taking the time to discuss the tactics needed to improve our skills.”
Sittig said playing Beach Volleyball at sites on three continents is “exciting. We are getting to see the world and visit places during our travels. In addition to meeting, practicing and playing the competitors on the FIVB World Tour, we have met a lot of interesting people when traveling from event-to-event. Life could not be better for Lu and me right now.”
Simone Sittig with a Mikasa reception at the Olsztyn Grand Slam
The 36-year old Pierangeli added “we are on World Tour doing what we love. Beach Volleyball is more than a sport, it is a life style. And we are so grateful we can do it on a daily basis. The FIVB World Tour has been very challenging in terms of matches and results, but what we take from it are moments. Moments that will stay with us forever, moments that we can share with others, moments that can inspire other people.”
Pierangeli said that her aim with Sittig is “to inspire other people to follow their dreams, to dare to dream big and go for it. There is no such thing such as a dream too big, everything is possible with determination, dedication, commitment and trust. Trusting the process. If being an athlete is your passion, then doing everything it takes to be one, is what needs to happen. For us to keep on improving we need to keep on going, keep on playing matches; as many as we can, use the opportunities of being here on world tour with the best in the world and learn through observation. This is such a powerful tool!
Luciana Pierangeli diving for Mikasa in her first FIVB World Tour event in 2014 in South Africa
A hope for both Pierangeli and Sittig is to develop the sport in South Africa. “We would like to be more involved and find creative ways of doing this,” said Pierangeli. “We do go back home and share the experiences, the drills we learn here and also by playing against others the level gets raised as we improve as well. Also, we feel we can motivate people through speaking engagements. It would be a great tool!”
After playing last week in Olsztyn, Poland, Pierangeli and Sittig took time to participate in a Q&A.
Question - When did you start playing Beach Volleyball?
Pierangeli - “I started playing Beach Volleyball in November 2013, just before the FIVB Durban Open event. I've been an athlete my entire life, actually, I am an athlete at heart. I feel alive when I show the athlete in me. I played handball, basketball and Volleyball. I was a skier and now I am a snowboarder. I did horse riding, mountain biking, athletics and swimming as well. While I was studying, I played Volleyball for South Africa for a few years 2004-2007. I participated in the 2007 World Students Games (Universidad) in Thailand for South Africa. At that time, I felt I had reached my highest point as an athlete by being part of the Olympics for students as we used to call it.
Sittig - “My volleyball passion was inspired at school by a charismatic chemistry teacher called Klaus Cremer, who came from Germany and single handedly lifted the level of indoor volleyball at school level in Johannesburg. He created champions and winning teams, by sharing his passion for this sport. I believe in inspiration. If you ask any pro athlete, I believe they would have a story to tell of someone who inspired them and someone who believed in them. I went on to play indoor volleyball at provincial and national level, winning South Africa club champs with my club Quantum and was inspired by Hugan Coopsamy.
Luciana Pierangeli (left) and Simone Sittig of South Africa talking lakeside in Olsztyn, Poland
Question - How did the partnership come about?
Pierangeli - “After watching the London Olympics, that's when the thinking and dreaming process started, with the inspiration of the best in the world. In mid-2013, I decided to go back to my indoor volleyball team to do some physical activity, help the team and the coach. I had no intention in competing at all. At the end of year, I played my first Beach Volleyball matches on the Provincial and national circuits. My first national event is where I played against my current coach, Judith Deister Augoustides. Right after that competition and after hearing that Judith went to the Olympics, I had this urge to share my thoughts and needs to become a beach volleyball player with Judith. So I emailed her my thoughts and dreams, where I mentioned I needed a partner, coach and sponsorship. A few hours later I got a reply saying it might be challenging, but we'll find a partner for you; you've got a coach and we'll find sponsors. That’s how everything started. During 2014, I travelled between Pretoria and Cape Town to train until I moved down to Cape Town end of 2014. After discussing with a few people to find the right partner for me, we found Simone and since then we've been playing together.”
Question - Being in your mid-30s, what did you do before your started playing on the FIVB World Tour at the end of the 2014 season in Mangaung, South Africa?
Sittig - “I stopped playing volleyball in my early 20s when I moved to Cape Town to study medical Honors in Sports Science and Bio kinetics. I focused on my career and built up my own business and medical practice. Being in Cape Town, with some of the best beaches in the world and international Beach Volleyball players visiting our beaches for training camps, I started my Beach Volleyball inspiration on the Clifton sands four years ago and have been playing Beach Volleyball ever since.”
Question - The FIVB World Tour has been challenging for your team. Any highlights? What will it take for your team to improve?
Sittig - “We have many highlights. While we haven't clocked in a win yet, every point we score against the world's best players feels like a win! One of my highlights was playing on center court at the 2015 SWATCH Major Series event in Stavanger. We were up against Fernanda (Alves) and Taiana (Lima) and were 6-0 down in the first set and full of nerves. Then the announcer got the crowd to clap and cheer us on and boom, I blocked one of Fernanda’s shots. We celebrated as if we had won the game and the crowd was just as happy for us to get on the scoreboard! We win in moments like these. This is what we grow and learn from. It's an experience that is worth gold and will help us improve and something we will be able to pass on to others too.”
Questions - Are you involved with the development of Beach Volleyball in South Africa?
Sittig - “Not at this point, the development is headed up by our federation. I would like to get involved at some stage, as a coach and scouting young talents. We have incredible talent in South Africa and it is my intention to help these talents grow to become world tour players.
Question - Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Education? Jobs?
Pierangeli - “I was born in Comodoro Rivadavia, a city in the Patagonian province of Chubut in southern Argentina. I did my primary, high school and tertiary education in Argentina. After a three-year degree, I became an IT technician and an IT programmer. In my early 20's, I went to Europe and lived there for two years. After that, I went to South Africa in 2003 to visit my family in Pretoria and ended up staying there. I did my Bachalarius Degree in Computer Science and right after that, a post degree in Management of Technology at the University of Pretoria. In 2007, I started working for KPMG in the IT Advisory department. I worked there for seven years doing IT audits and Forensic investigations. Now, I am doing projects to have enough time to be able to go on world tour and be the athlete I was born to be.”
Sittig - “I was born in Johannesburg. I studied BCom Sport Management and went on to do medical honors in Sports Science and Biokinetics. I run a private practice in Cape Town, specializing in sports injury management, orthopedic injury rehab and pain management.
Simone Sittig (left) and Luciana Pierangeli during a timeout on Copacabana at the Rio Grand Slam
Question - What about your families? Children? Famous relatives?
Pierangeli - “My dad, aunts and cousins are still in Argentina. My mother, sister, brother and nieces/nephew are in South Africa. I don't have children, but I have this beautiful amazing eight-year old brother. He is an African boy and we have the most beautiful and strong connection I have ever felt with anyone.”
Sittig - “My whole family, including two siblings and parents also moved to Cape Town. I am in a relationship, no children.
Question - Anything else of interest?
Pierangeli - “In 2008, while training to ride 94.7 km in my mountain bike, I had an accident and broke my right collar bone. I had an operation and stopped all sport for a few months for full recovery. My shoulder is 100% now.”
Sittig - “I love to work with athletes, rehabilitating injuries but also maximizing their movement potential by using the latest exercise science techniques in neural dynamics and muscle Activation.