Tunis, Tunisia, August 22, 2019 – Bulgaria’s rising star Samuil Valchinov was not tall enough to be anything other than a libero when he started playing volleyball as a kid. Keen to succeed, he worked very hard at volleyball practice and not only grew up physically to switch to an outside spiker, but also grew up technically to make the national team for his age and be one of Bulgaria’s leaders as the squad is currently vying for success at the FIVB Boys’ U19 Volleyball World Championship.
“I never assume my job is done,” the young athlete told fivb.com at the premises of the event in Tunis. “I am always highly critical and very demanding of myself as I try to extract the maximum. My only dream is to evolve as a player from the junior to the senior level and then develop further to play volleyball of the highest caliber.”
Samuil Valchinov spikes against Iran at the U19 World Championship in Tunis
Valchinov’s mother is a banker and his father is a manager in sales. The grandfather, a former basketball player, is the only athlete in the family, but it was his dad, a passionate fan of the sport, who insisted young Samuil gets into volleyball. Samuil’s younger brother Kaloyan also followed in his footsteps.
“My father fired me up for volleyball,” the young Bulgarian hopeful told the story. “As a big volleyball fan, he wanted me to practise this particular sport. He took me to my first training when I was in fourth grade. Gradually I fell in love with the sport and I decided that this is what I want to do.”
Valchinov started training in his home town of Plovdiv, at the Victoria Volley club under youth coach Dragan Ivanov, well-known for the many high-level volleyballers he has discovered and carved out as quality players.
“I have only positive memories of the time coach Ivanov showed me the first steps in volleyball and taught me all the fundamental techniques. I started as a libero, because I was not as tall as the other guys. My grandfather is tall, but my parents not so much. The coach put us through very well modelled training routines and I think this helped me grow taller, which was key to continuing to develop as a volleyballer.”
With Victoria Volley, young Valchinov won four national titles for his age group. He made the youth national team, where he was spotted by legendary opposite Vladimir Nikolov, ex-captain of the Lions. He invited Samuil to join the men’s team of Levski Sofia at the age of 15 and this is how he became a professional. A foot injury he sustained in the first match of his second season held him back for a while, but he is fully recovered and already looking forward to his third season with the powerhouse from the Bulgarian capital, eager to excel under the guidance of his coaches Vlado Nikolov and Andrey Zhekov, another ex-captain of the Bulgarian national team, as well as Italian specialist Andrea Burattini.
“Burattini is one of the people who work with me on the details of each element of the game and this is exactly what I need to grow. I am optimistic about the coming season. I expect the club to give me a chance to play in the Superliga matches and I intend on grabbing it and making the most of it,” stated Valchinov with determination.
While working with such legendary names in his club, Samuil Valchinov also looks up to American standout Matthew Anderson, among the currently active volleyballers.
“I like his personality, his behaviour and composure on the court, his playing technique and his leadership qualities. That’s why he is like an idol to me,” he explained.
Outside volleyball, the 194-cm-tall receiver likes travelling, watching movies, playing video games, going to the mountains and hanging out with friends.
“It does not happen often that I have free time, because of our intensive schedule, but when I go back to Plovdiv, I get together with the guys, we play some football, we try to take some time out of our daily routine... I also like the mountains a lot. My grandparents have a mountain house and whenever I have some time for it I like to visit them, breathe some fresh air and clear my head. I enjoy playing adventure games with a story and a character, as well as football simulation games with friends. My favourite movie is Miracle. It’s a sports film about the US ice hockey team and the difficulties it had to persevere on the way to the Olympic title. I find it very inspirational and I do recommend it,” Samuil pointed out.
“Of course, I love travelling, getting to know new lands and new cultures, finding out how people live in the different parts of the world. It enriches me and I can only benefit from it,” he added. “Unfortunately, since I have devoted myself to volleyball, it has been the only reason for me to travel. In the past two years I have not even had the time to go to the seaside for summer holidays, because I am entirely focused on training.”
However, he did go to the seaside earlier this summer for a beach volleyball tournament and his current indoor teammate in the national team, libero Damyan Kolev, was his partner on the sand as well.
“The Bulgarian Olympic Committee invited us to participate. I had never played beach volleyball before, but we decided to give it a try and managed to win the tournament,” said Samuil. “To be honest, I thought it would be easier, only to find out that it is a completely different sport. It is more difficult to jump on the sand and the technique is quite different.”
Samuil Valchinov aspires to reach a level, which would allow him to compete in some of the world’s top leagues, such as the Italian championship. He knows he is still young and has a long way to go, but following his motto, whatever the mind can believe, the mind can achieve, he is keen on chasing his dream.
“Volleyball is a game I love so much and a sport I want to be successful in,” Samuil concluded. “But it is not easy to succeed and reach the highest level where I want to be, so this is what motivates me to train hard every day.”