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The athletes competing at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in Cagliari are among the best players in the world, but to say that about Valentina Gottardi would obviously be a little bit of a stretch. She is only 18 and this event actually marks her debut on the top-level international beach volleyball scene. But she is evidently very talented and three-time Olympian Marta Menegatti is happy with her as a partner.

Menegatti and Gottardi are representing the host country as one of the two wild cards in the women’s tournament in Italy. Although they lost their first match of the competition to Switzerland’s Nina Betschart and Tanja Huberli in straight sets, they were in a good mood after the game and obviously enjoying their time together.

“She is very young and super nice!” 31-year-old defender Menegatti told Volleyball World. “It’s super fun playing together. I am a three-time Olympian and I have a lot of experience and she is so young...”

“... and I can learn a lot from her!” young blocker Gottardi said.

Valentina Gottardi in action

Valentina Gottardi in action

“Marta is a player who can help the other player a lot with her skills, with her technique. Valentina is a really talented athlete. She played really well against us,” said Swiss opponent Nina Betschart.

Wrapping up her 13th season on the World Tour, Menegatti has piled up two gold, seven silver and seven bronze medals in her career. After claiming a continental title and two world championship silvers in age-category competitions, she topped the senior EuroBeachVolley podium in 2011 alongside Greta Cicolari. Menegatti represented Italy at three Olympic Games, taking a fifth place at London 2012 with Cicolari, a ninth at Rio 2016 with Laura Giombini and a 19th at Tokyo 2020 with Viktoria Orsi Toth. She is now looking forward to another Olympic campaign towards Paris 2024, but is still unclear whether she will do that with Gottardi as a partner.

“It was a surprise when we started playing together,” Menegatti said. “Our first tournament was the finals of the Italian championship in Caorle this summer. It was a really good surprise, because we had trained just three times together, but we won the tournament. We didn’t expect it. Then the federation decided that we should play here and we are very happy about that. Our confidence, our rhythm and our energy on the court are really good.

“Now it’s a little bit complicated, because we can’t foresee the future. Our federation has to decide how things will work for us in the future, but going for Paris 2024 together is certainly a possibility. So now we are just enjoying the tournament here.”

Valentina Gottardi is on her first full-time season on the beach. She made her international debut in May at the U22 European Championship in Austria. In July, she and Aurora Mattavelli finished fifth at the U20 European Championship in Turkey. In September, she made her World Tour debut at the Cervia 1-star in Italy, taking a ninth, again with Mattavelli. The ongoing World Tour Finals is only the second World Tour event in her career.

“She started playing beach volleyball full time a year ago. Before that she played indoor volleyball in Modena and participated in some domestic age-category beach tournaments in the summers. This summer she won the U20 national championship and joined the senior Italian tour,” Menegatti added about her new partner.

Marta Menegatti and Valentina Gottardi of Italy

“I’m really happy to be here and to play with all these girls,” Gottardi said. “They are very strong and I am probably not ready to play at this level, but I am happy to have this opportunity and I will try to play well and to enjoy this tournament. To play here, at home in Italy, also gives me a little bit of extra confidence.”

In terms of results, Menegatti and Gottardi do not have a set target for the World Tour Finals in Sardinia.

“The goal is to try to perform well together, play our best beach volleyball and enjoy it,” said Menegatti.

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