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10/01/2020 22:00
Azerbaijan’s superstar retires from international Volleyball after Tokyo qualifier
News from the National Federations

Luxembourg, January 10, 2020. Friday’s matchup with Poland at the Tokyo 2020 Volleyball qualifier in Apeldoorn was a truly special one for Azerbaijan’s superstar Polina Rahimova. The opposite hitter, who is spending the current season in Brazil, announced that this was her last fixture with the national team of Azerbaijan.

Born in Uzbekistan and after spending much of her childhood and youth in Ukraine, Rahimova moved to Azerbaijan, making her international debut at EuroVolley 2007 in Charleroi, Belgium in a matchup against Belarus. Since that day, she wore the jersey of the national team another 141 times, helping Azerbaijan achieve unprecedented success.

Volleyball fans have come to know Rahimova, a 198cm tall, physically imposing opposite hitter, as some sort of a ‘scoring machine’. She held for a number of years the world record for the most points scored in one match – she registered 58 points in a matchup of the Japanese V.League that she contested with the Toyota Auto Body Queenseis back in December of 2015. Jana Kulan eventually broke that record when she scored 60 points in April 2019 in another V.League match while wearing the shirt of the Toray Arrows.

“I still remember my first European Championship, where I played against Russia. Ekaterina Gamova and Yulia Merkulova were playing for Russia at that time – so you can imagine what sort of block was standing in front of us. I only knew them from watching Volleyball on TV, and eventually I found myself standing on the other side of the net and I said to myself, well, wow!” Rahimova recounts.

Polina Rahimova portrayed during the Baku 2015 European Games where she was - by far - the top scorer of the competition

Wearing the shirt of Azerbaijan, Polina achieved her biggest successes on home soil. Back in 2015, when Baku hosted the inaugural European Games, Rahimova scored a monster tally of 215 points in eight matches to help Azerbaijan finish the competition in fourth place. Rahimova’s scoring prowess becomes even more evident when looking at the second most prolific player of that same tournament – Poland’s Katarzyna Zaroslinska, a distant second on 151 points.

Rahimova was the ‘cover girl’ of her team in 2017 as well – when Azerbaijan co-hosted together with Georgia a truly historic EuroVolley for the whole Caucasus region. Rahimova was the best scorer of that tournament as well on 151 points – 21 clear of eventual MVP and gold medal winner Tijana Boskovic of Serbia.

Polina Rahimova (far right, first row) posing together with Team Azerbaijan after claiming gold at the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku 

A real globetrotter, who has played in countries as diverse as Turkey, Italy, Korea, Japan and Brazil, Rahimova is not yet planning to put an end to her competitive career though. “I do have many good memories from my 13 years with the national team. Natalya Mammadova was always a sort of role model for me, as she inspired me to keep going especially in difficult times. Kseniya Poznyak, a middle blocker who has retired from international Volleyball already, was a good friend of mine as well – she is now studying in Canada and she plays for a college there. I am very close to Olena Hasanova as well – unfortunately, she could not be with us here in Apeldoorn because of injuries,” Rahimova said.

Rahimova played at the Olympic qualifiers three times throughout her career and at four European Championships, but her ‘only’ accolade with the national team remains the gold medal from the 2017 edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games held in Baku. “We could have achieved more, especially in 2017, when we lost that dramatic semi-final with the Netherlands at EuroVolley. We could have finished second at that tournament, but we always paid the price for our ‘short bench’, so there has always been quite some pressure on the starting players. I will now end my international career because I am playing in Brazil, and it takes a lot of effort to travel from the other side of the world and adjust in a short time to a different environment and to the needs of the group. However, the memories of my time with Team Azerbaijan will stay with me forever.”

News nr. 1585 of 23547
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