Kravcenoka and Graudina smile after winning against Kenya

Anastasija Kravcenoka and Tina Graudina rejoice at Tokyo 2020

Latvian partners Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka, who spend a lot of their time living in different countries and training separately, finally got a chance to get together in preparation for the upcoming Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour season and this year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships.

Kravcenoka, who lives in her native Latvia, travelled to the United States, where Graudina goes to college. The two reunited on the beaches of California for a cherished opportunity to practise together with their coach Gustavo Rocha and the rest of their staff, for their Beach Pro Tour debut at the Rosarito Elite 16 event in Mexico from March 23 to 27.

“Currently I am in Los Angeles back with our team. Tina, Gustavo and Pompilio, as well as our physical conditioning coach, managed to come here too. It’s good to have the entire team here and have the best training process we can have,” Kravcenoka told Volleyball World. “I also enjoy the opportunity to practise with many other teams from USA, Canada and Japan.”

“I'm currently finishing my last two months of playing college beach volleyball for the University of Southern California and I am happy that Anastasija has come all the way to Los Angeles to train together,” added Graudina, who will turn 24 on March 9.

Indeed, Tina combines her preparation for the Beach Pro Tour with her duties as a USC political science major senior, and is also a key member of the USC Trojans beach volleyball team, whose NCAA competition season recently started. The reigning national champions won their season-opener emphatically, winning all five rubbers against Long Beach State. Their first-flight pair consisting of Graudina and Hailey Harward came back from an 11-2 deficit in the first set to emerge with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-11) victory.

Kravcenoka has also kept busy while away from her regular partner this winter. She even went to a training camp in Tenerife without Graudina by her side.

“While I was in Tenerife, I was asked several times, ‘Is it hard for you to train so much alone?’ Of course, it’s hard, but after four years of such practise, I even got somehow used to it. I am on my own, I rely only on myself and make decisions myself. There are problems with motivation, but I always try to give my best at 100% and do what I think is best,” Kravcenoka said on Instagram.

In early January, Kravcenoka played at the King of the Court Finals in Doha with Australia’s Phoebe Bell as a partner. They made it to the podium with bronze.

“The King of the Court was a great first competition of the year. Phoebe and I found the right chemistry on the court and enjoyed every moment of it,” the 25-year-old defender said. “And it was good to finally step up onto the podium, after the 2021 season when Tina and I finished fourth so many times.”

In what was arguably their best season in international beach volleyball so far, Graudina and Kravcenoka made it to the semifinals of an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event for the first time in their careers at the Sochi 4-star in May 2021. They did it again at the Gstaad 4-star in July, and again at the Olympic Games and the CEV European Championship in August. Of course, reaching the Tokyo 2020 semifinals was the highlight, not only of their season, but of their journey as team to date. But on all four occasions, they finished fourth and off the podium. That left them with a little bit of bitterness they will be eager to remedy during the new season.

“I think that every defeat teaches us something,” Anastasija said. “About Tokyo, I think that the desire to get a medal was so big, that I personally couldn’t deal with it, and that’s my biggest lesson. But memories are still very bright...”

Graudina - Latvia’s 2021 Athlete of the Year - and Kravcenoka have already signed up for a number of tournaments this season. They are set to make their Beach Pro Tour debut at the Rosarito Elite 16 event later this month.

“The first competition together for Tina and me this year will be the Rosarito Elite 16. As we are participating in a new tour, it’s very hard to make any predictions, so I just want to have the same atmosphere on the court with Tina as we did in 2021. I love to compete, so I want to enjoy every second of it,” Kravcenoka concluded.

“Yes, there are a lot of uncertainties for the next three months, but we know for sure that we will be going to the Rosarito Elite 16 tournament with the main focus on the World Championship and the Elite 16 tournament at home in Jurmala,” Graudina added. “For me, it feels like everything that happened last year was already a long time ago, and my emotions and mental state are very forward-looking. I cannot wait for the competitions to begin!”