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Light volleyball from China welcomed in US

By RENA LI in Los Angeles | | Updated: 2024-02-22 10:59
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Light volleyball, also known as balloon volleyball, made its debut in North America with a competition in Glendora, California, over the weekend.

In this Chinese New Year celebration event, 12 teams, consisting of nearly 120 players, helped promote the sport by playing in the games.

Wang Taiyu, cultural counselor for the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, addressed the participants, emphasizing that sports transcend borders and emerging sports can bridge gaps between people of different races, fostering communication.

"I hope the games will lay a foundation for further sports exchanges between the US and China," he said.

Light volleyball integrates sport, recreation and entertainment since its beginning in the 1980s. While the game and are similar to traditional volleyball, the ball is slightly larger, lighter and softer. The net is lower, and the games are typically played on a smaller court.

Li Hua, president of the Light Volleyball USA Association, an organization geared toward introducing the sport to the US, said, "We will be committed to hosting more international invitational tournaments in the future, bringing together light volleyball enthusiasts from China, the US, and even around the world."

The evented marked a significant step in promoting the sport and fostering connections between athletes from different backgrounds.

Matt Cacciato, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Sports Council, expressed his support for this game.

"We are here to really support the spirit of sport. You can participate and enjoy in the competitive spirit that we all have inside of us," Cacciato told China Daily.

Cacciato said light volleyball represents an evolution in sports and embodies the human spirit and competitive drive.

"It's imperative that we embrace all forms of recreational or competitive sports, and we're seeing this trends in other sports as well. From rugby to diverse variations of basketball, including all-abilities movements, these sports are sweeping the world,

"The rebounding from traditional sports is a beautiful thing. It gets more people involved, and I think it contributes to a healthy lifestyle," said Cacciato.

He said it is "critically important" that China and the US are working together to improve the spirit of the Olympic movement.

Olivia Cheng, senior director of marketing and brand engagement at LA28, the Los Angeles Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028, said, "Keep an eye out — you may witness it in the 2028 Olympics, if not sooner in Paris.

"Obviously, there's volleyball and beach volleyball as official sports of our LA28 games, but you never know," she said. "Maybe one day light volleyball might be one of those sports in the games in the coming years. I hope you guys tune in this summer as Paris is going to be putting on their games and then right after that is going to be our games."

The inaugural games attracted former Olympians such as former USA women's volleyball national team player Alexis Crimes, who is now coaching the women's team.

"This is my first time being in light volleyball. It's different than regular volleyball, and the size and the weight (of the ball), so I'm excited to try it out," Crimes said, adding she will bring the ball back to show her team and have them try it.

Brian Gimillaro, former head coach of the California State-Long Beach women's volleyball team, emphasized the importance of athletes from the US and China building relationships, sharing cultures and fostering a positive connection between the two countries.

"I think the future is unlimited," Gimillaro told China Daily. "I would love to see this sport can catch on in US so that an American team can be part of the international players, that would be wonderful."

The China-originated sport has been successfully introduced in countries including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The game took center stage and attracted nearly 150 teams from China and Australia during the 2023 Samaranch Cup Gas Volleyball Invitational.

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