For Jenia Grebennikov, there is always a good reason to smile
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 18, 2019 – Jenia Grebennikov won the Best Libero award at three major international competitions in 2018 – the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, the FIVB Volleyball Club World Championships and the CEV Champions League. Make that four with the Hubert Wagner Memorial in Poland.
FIVB President Ary Graça presents the VNL Best Libero award to Jenia Grebennikov
Volleyball is a team sport, however, and a player always prefers to win trophies collectively rather than individually. And Grebennikov believes he can be even more successful in 2019.
“I am very happy and proud to get these individual titles. But I was lucky because I played in good teams, which advanced to the final rounds. These prizes push me to be better and motivate me to go to practice and work harder, but of course I prefer to get a gold medal with my team and not just the award for best libero,” he told fivb.com.
France won silver at the inaugural edition of the VNL. And at club level, Grebennikov and Cucine Lube Civitanova finished runners-up in the five competitions they played during the 2017-2018 season. The Frenchman did finally win gold at the 2018 Men's Club World Championship in Poland, however, with his new club team Trentino Volley.
“2018 was very successful for me, but could have been more successful because I lost five finals - with Lube and with the national team. It was crazy that in the end I finally won a gold medal - a great feeling to win that final against my previous club Lube! The title showed the world that Trentino are back and proved that the decision my wife and I took to come to Trento was right. It was a very good year - I learned a lot and I think now I am a better player than before.”
In the 2018 VNL Finals France played at home and that was not the only reason they were considered the big favourites for the historic gold. But it was not to be as Russia defeated the hosts in straight sets in the spectacular final in Lille. Grebennikov remembers that match well and without disappointment.
The fantastic ambience of the 2018 VNL final between France and Russia
“It was great to play at a football stadium in front of full stands in France,” he said. “We did our best in the final, but at that point Russia were just too strong and it was impossible to beat them. Everybody saw that. It was beautiful to see them play so well and we were happy to be second.”
Jenia was born in France some 28 years ago in the family of former Soviet volleyballer Boris Grebennikov.
“My family is from Russia and I understand the language, so every time I play against a Russian team I get a lot of adrenalin and extra motivation to give my best on the court. It is always something special for me... and even more so for my parents. But of course they love me and support my team, even when I play against their native country.”
In a remake of last year’s final, France and Russia will meet again during the first weekend of the 2019 VNL. Both teams will begin their campaigns in the same pool alongside Japan and hosts Serbia from May 31 to June 2. And Grebennikov is looking forward to the second edition of the league: “The VNL is a very long and very strong competition, with all the good teams in the world participating, which makes you push to the maximum. I hope the stands will be full of people again. For me, it is also very interesting, because we travel a lot and see different countries.”
Jenia admits he is a keen traveller and enjoys his trips, be it for volleyball or for holidays.
“Two years ago, we went on a safari and it was incredible to see all the animals that live in Africa. Last summer we went to Dubai and the Maldives. I had never been to Dubai before and I wanted to see what it was like. After the very difficult VNL competition I needed to just put my telephone away in my bag and relax on the beach with my wife. The Maldives were the right place for it. But in general, I am not the kind of person who just wants to lie on the sand and wait for the summer to finish. I like to visit new places, see new sights, try different food, experience interesting things... So we’ll probably pick another exciting destination for the time after the VNL this year again.”
This time he will travel as a married man. Jenia and his long-time sweetheart Wiem were married on New Year’s Eve, in Paris, and the happy groom admits he would like to be a father.
“In the summer I never know when I am going to be free. December 31 was the only free day I could find for my wedding. After my last game on December 29 I had three days off, so I went directly to Paris. I was happy to have my wedding in France, in Paris. Now it feels good. My wife and I can start a new life and we want to make a family soon. I am very happy. We have already been together for six years, but it was important to get married before we have babies, to respect the tradition. I think I am already mature enough to have children and now we are ready for it. I think I can be a good father.”
Jenia plays ball with a kid on the VNL court (credit: Julien Crosnier / FFVolley)
Jenia has not lost sight of his passions – playing volleyball, spending time with loved ones, enjoying life...
“The only time I am a little sad is when I am alone at home. But I always smile when I am with somebody, be it my wife, my family or my teammates. I am very positive, because I enjoy my life. To be a professional volleyball player was my dream, so I have nothing to be sad about. I am very lucky! It is even possible that my positive attitude is the key to my success, because physically I am OK for a libero (tall, but not fat), but I am not very good technically. However, because I am happy to play, I always give my maximum, I push my team and I enjoy playing volleyball just like I did when I was a kid - I haven’t changed.”