Lausanne, Switzerland, July 31, 2015 - Russia’s Natalia Goncharova – or Natalia Obmochaeva, as she is known since her marriage in Russia – is a global star on the volleyball stage.
The 26-year-old was amongst the top players at the recent FIVB World Grand Prix - she was the top scorer of the competition with 271 points, almost a hundred more than USA’s Karsta Lowe (186). She was also the Omaha tournament’s top scorer with 101 points (85 spikes, 14 blocks, 2 aces) and was named the Best Opposite Spiker.
Far more important, however, was the second place at the FIVB World Grand Prix. This was their best finish for six years, after also finishing runners-up in 2009. “Of course, first place would have been much better, but second is good,” said the attacker.
She soon turned her attention to the next highlight, however. Natalia is determined to lead her team to more success at the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Cup from August 22 to September 6 in Japan: “We will prepare for the World Cup, where the two winners will qualify for the 2016 Olympics. It will be a challenge to finish first or second – but we can do it.”
Among their opponents at the World Cup are world champions USA and FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship runners-up China.
As a young girl, Goncharova began her career at Regina Riwmne in the Ukraine, where she later switched to Universitet Iwano-Frankiwsk. She was crowned European champion with the Ukrainian U18 team in 2005 and finished third in the European Championship in 2006.
Her debut with the senior women's national team came in 2007. In the same year, she switched to Dynamo Moscow, where she plays in the Russian top division and for whom her sister Valeria Goncharova also plays. In 2009 she achieved the national double, winning both the cup and league. This was the first of many successes with her club. Moscow also reached the final of the European Champions League against Foppapedretti Bergamo.
Goncharova was given Russian citizenship, meaning she was eligible to play for the Russian national team. She made her debut in 2010 at the tournament in Montreux, and was crowned world champion in the same year. She then went on to win the European Championship in 2013.
In the meantime, Goncharova has established herself as a leading player, following in the footsteps of Ekaterina Gamova. This year, she was named MVP in the Russian league, ahead of her great idol. Instead of punching hard all the time, she now plays a more varied and subtle game. “I have a certain experience of life and playing. Perhaps this helps to make the necessary decisions on the court,” she said. Among those life experiences is her marriage to Russian volleyball star Alexei Obmochaev, a few days after the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The wedding made them volleyball’s dream couple in Russia - a Russian version of Jacqueline Carvalho and Murilo Endres if you like. The following season, the pair played in different cities: Natalia in Moscow and Alexei in Kazan, visiting each other only on weekends. In 2013, Alex signed a contract with Dynamo Moscow and moved to the capital and it is now not uncommon to see Natalia at her husband’s matches and vice versa. The name on the vest is now Obmochaeva, but she is still often called Goncharova around the world.