Road to London: Freedom Chiya
Cape Town - In the sixth in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to SA beach volleyballer, Freedom Chiya.
Road to London: Bridgette Hartley
Road to London: Kate Woods
Road to London: Cameron van der Burgh
Road to London: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi
Road to London: Gideon Sam
Road to London: Marcus Retief
GRAEME JOFFE: South Africa will be sending a Beach Volleyball team to the Olympic Games for the 2nd time after Freedom Chiya and Grant Goldschmidt qualified for London, winning the Africa qualifier in Mauritius. Freedom, welcome back from Mauritius, I take it you have a nice tan?
FREEDOM CHIYA: Ja, I am not sure if black people can get a tan but (laughter) but I am a bit browner than normal.
JOFFE: (laughter) Congratulations, must be a great feeling, the first team to book a place for the Beach Volleyball in London?
CHIYA: It is a wonderful feeling. We have been trying for the past eight years, obviously the other guys made it, just before us previously, Gerson Rorich and Colin Pocock but now obviously it was our chance, so we are really excited, basically speechless.
JOFFE: How long have you and Grant been playing together for?
CHIYA: I have had different partners before this but Grant has been my strongest partner so far. We’ve been playing together for the past three and a half years or so.
JOFFE: The Continental Cup in Mauritius, all the top African teams were there, you guys beat Angola in a tense final, the pressure must have been massive.
CHIYA: Ja, Angola is one of the best playing Beach Volleyball countries in Africa, currently. They are very much involved in the world tour and everything, so they were always going to be our major competition, obviously inclusive of the others like, Egypt, Morocco, and Nigeria. We knew we had to work hard, we had played them before in a different game and we have beaten them before. So we knew that we had an upper hand and just had to the same thing that we did during the previous games. Play hard and utilise their weak points.
JOFFE: Rorich and Pocock, the last South African’s to represent SA at the Olympics, are they still playing?
CHIYA: Ja, Pocock is still playing but Rorich is now more into the administration side of Beach Volleyball. He was courtside in Mauritius as well and has been a great help. So ja, they are still very much involved.
JOFFE: Are you guys playing full time and travelling to other tournaments around the world?
CHIYA: It depends how you look at it. We feel as if it is full time because we train about four to five times a week. We do have other jobs for our main income but we do get some money from Beach Volleyball. We would like to think that we are full time Beach Volleyball players, but obviously everything is based on the financial basis, so, we are professional I think, (laughter)
JOFFE: Your preparations between now and London?
CHIYA: We were going to take part in the world tour which is the biggest Beach Volleyball event. We missed a few rounds because of the Mauritius qualifications but we are going to pick it up in the Czech Republic and then continue to play in other countries like Italy and up until we get to July when we have to go to the Olympics. We are going to have to play against the best in the world, basically before we go to the Olympics so we are going to be challenged quite a lot, like a good two months or so.
JOFFE: How big is Beach Volleyball in South Africa?
CHIYA: It has always been kind of big, but you know there were times that there were moments when it was really, really big, then obviously there was a downfall but again, coming up again now. We have tournaments all year round but you know, it doesn’t get much publicity in newspapers. So, not as big as soccer, rugby, cricket, but it is pretty decent I think.
JOFFE: How did you get to start playing Beach Volleyball?
CHIYA: Well, I am originally from Kwa-Zulu Natal and I lived literally 4km’s from the beach. So, when I started playing Indoor Volleyball mainly, we used to knock around on the beach. But I never thought I would take it seriously until I got my national colours in 2001 and I fell in love with Beach Volleyball.
JOFFE: So, this is the start of the Olympic dream for you guys?
CHIYA: It is crazy man, I have never felt like this before, we have really been trying hard. Grant tried to qualify four years ago, so a dream for both of us. It is really, really important for me, my career choice, because you know I was kicking myself and saying why did you not continue playing rugby or soccer but then, to play in the Olympics will ultimately just fulfil my dreams with regard to the sport.
JOFFE: Freedom Chiya, well, if you come back with a gold medal from London, they will give you the “freedom” of KZN.
CHIYA: (laughter) that will be wonderful, thank you very much.
Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on www.1485.org.za. Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy
With partner Grant Goldschmidt, Freedom Chiya became the first men's team to secure a berth in the 2012 London Olympics for South Africa by winning the CAVB Beach Volleyball Continental Cup in April 2012.
Freedom Chiya and Grant Goldschmidt (File)