Italian women’s volleyball star Myriam Sylla has said she hopes the postponement of the Olympics can bring stability to teams currently weakened by injury. Tokyo Olympic pushed back one year, with the Olympics now beginning on to July 23, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Despite the pandemic and associated restrictions on movement hurting her training, Sylla is looking for positives to take from the suspension of sport.

“This postponement can help us find more stability because some of my teammates are coming back from injuries, Sylla said, as reported by the Olympic Channel. With one year more, all the players will be available, we will have more experience and the team will be more compact.”

After three consecutive fifth-place finishes from Athens 2004 to London 2012, Italy failed to progress from their group at Rio 2016 for the first time since making their Olympic debut at Sydney 2000. Rio 206 was Sylla’s first Olympic appearance. Since then, her Italian team has captured silver at the World Championship in 2018 came third at last year’s European Championship.

Italy’s young team has numerous rivals but “we have to beat them all because the bar is quite high”, Sylla says, and is targeting a significant improvement in her previous Olympic experience.

I was very young and when we qualified, I felt I had the whole world in my hands. Then in Rio, I realized how the world was too overwhelming for us, we faced teams who had the bit between their teeth, while we were not ready at all for such an event.

We were getting along well and there was a good mix in the team, but probably we weren’t organized perfectly and couldn’t cope with the strong emotions. It was a mix of factors and unfortunately, we couldn’t show how competitive we were, now with hindsight, I would know what we should have done and what we shouldn’t have.

Sylla admits she misses her Italian teammates and her Imoco Volley Conegliano club colleagues, who were close to sealing the Italian title before the pandemic hit and sat top of the table. She particularly highlights her friendship with Paola Egonu, a teammate at both club and international level who she calls a little sister.

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“We found ourselves in the same situation as we made our debut for the senior national team at the same time,” Sylla said.

We needed to help each other and from there, our relationship has gradually evolved. It’s not just smiles and jokes, we are both very proud people and we often confront each other, but we overcome our differences because there’s a strong friendship underneath. Italy finds itself in a Tokyo Olympic group with world number one China and the United States – world number two – as well as Russia, Argentina, and Turkey. The Italian team is currently ranked fourth in the world, while Sylla was named the best outside spiker at both the last European and World Championships.

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