Sunday, 19 June 2011

World-Class Volleyball Players: Natalia MaLaga - An Unauthorized Biography!

Natalia Málaga is a former volleyball player and current coach of the Peruvian Youth Volleyball squad (19s), which will compete in the 2011 World Championships at Lima. She wants to make Peru one of the most successful and respected national sides in the Western Hemisphere. Twenty years ago, in October 1982, Miss Málaga became one of the youngest medalists in the FIVB World Cup history after winning the silver medal in her homeland. Previously, by 1981, she was member of a side of young up-and-coming athletes who came close to winning the Under-19 World Championship. She was four-time of the Peruvian Olympic Volleyball Team (Moscow '80, Los Angeles '84, Seoul '88, Sydney '2000). Because of her achievement and personality, she is a role model for many Peruvian and Latino athletes.

Málaga was born into a sporting family on January 26, 1964, in Lima, Peru's largest city and capital. Despite her short height, she (who stands 170m-tall) was regarded as one of the most important and popular players on the South American mainland between 1984 and 1993. During her sporting career, she was famous for her competitive spirit, discipline and Olympic ambition.

She, an expert in reception and defense, made her major debut on the senior team at the 1984 Summer Games at Los Angeles (CA), where she was a key-member of the national team that finished fourth in the Olympic Tournament (ahead of South Korea, Brazil, the Federal Republic of Germany/FGR and Canada). With the support of Man Bok Park, head of the women's Olympic squad, she was one of the leading players on the Peruvian national team until 2003.

By the mid-1980s, the South Korean Federation (with the backing of Man Bok Park) gave her a special invitation to play in the Korean League. Five years ago, she, at the age of 16, had competed as a rookie in the Games of the 22nd Olympiad in the Soviet Union (present-day Russia), together with Carmen Pimentel, Cecilia Tait, Denisse Fajardo, Gina Torrealba, and other Peruvian stars. They went to the USSR after winning the Under-19 South American Tournament in Santiago de Chile. Following beating Brazil, Málaga and her colleagues made history as they became the first Peruvian side to win the Junior SA title. At that year, they also gained the Under-17 SA trophy by defeating the side from Brazil (host country). In the next year, 1981, she and her team-mates improved their previous World Cup performance (Rio'77) when the squad was runner-up at the Junior WC in the United Mexican States, the first Latino team to win a silver medal.

With her accumulated experience in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and tours on Far East, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and Colorado Springs, she won her second consecutive continental title at the II South American Games in Argentina in 1982. Here she was named as one of the Most Valuable Players.

After being member of the team that surprisingly won the silver in the FIVB Women's Senior World Championship 1982 (held in Peru), she picked up a total of five South American titles (Sao Paulo '83, Caracas '85, Maldonado'87, Curitiba'89 and Cuzco'93) and two silvers ( Santo Andre '81 and Sao Paulo '91). In addition to these international trophies, she amassed three Pan American medals (2 bronze and 1 silver) from 1983 to 1991.

Without a doubt, her Olympic career reached her peak in the late 1980s when she and the Peruvian sportswomen finished second in women's volleyball at the Seoul Olympic Games. Upon winning the silver in the Republic of Korea, they captured the hearts of the Peruvians, becoming national heroes along with other famous individuals from Peru such as Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (UN secretary), Mario Vargas Llosa (author), and Teófilo Cubillas (former soccer player).

Before winning the Olympic silver, she won her third world-class medal as the national contingent became one of the three most outstanding teams on the Planet, after losing to Cuba (2-3) at Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic since 1993) in 1986. In that same year, she helped her squad to a second place at the First Goodwill Games in Moscow, behind the Soviet Union/USSR. Due to her excellent performance at Seoul'88, she moved to Western Europe to play in the Italian League (called one of the "best in the world"), alongside other names like Denisse Fajardo, Gina Torrealba and Gabriela Pérez del Solar.

Aside from winning several official tournaments, she obtained a number of non-officials events in West Germany (Bremen Cup), Japan (pre-Cup World), South Korea (Korean Cup), Switzerland (Samaranch Cup), and United Kingdom (UK Cup).

Peruvian-born Olympian athlete Málaga retired from volleyball in the early 2000s. Later on, she was named head coach of the Peruvian National Junior squad. She is well-known for her discipline, dedication and passion. Due her hard-working and perseverance, Peru claimed bronze medal in women's volleyball at the First Young Games Summer Olympics at Singapore City (Far East). She also guided the Peruvian squad to the Under-20 South American Tournament in Colombia, where Peru was runner-up (behind Brazil). However her goal is to lead Peru to the semi-finals of the Under-20 World Championships, which will be in Peru in July 2011. Among Málaga's most notable pupils re Gina López (1,86m-tall; a big talent in Peru's volleyball), Rafaella Camet (1,80m-tall), Daniela Uribe (1,83m), and Clarivet Illescas (1,82m).

Alejandro Guevara Onofre: Freelance writer. Alejandro is author of a host of articles/essays about over 220 countries and dependencies (and American States as well), from ecology, history, tourism and national heroes to Olympic sports, foreign relations, and wildlife. In addition, he has published some books on women's rights, among them "History of the Women of the United States" and "Famous Americans".

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