Pavel Pankov in action at the U23 World Championship
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 8, 2015 - The Pankov family is one of Russia's most famous volleyball dynasties.
Mother Marina Nikulina (Pankova) won Olympic gold in Seoul in 1988 with the Soviet Union. Father Vadim was in charge of the Russian women’s team at the inaugural European Games in Baku this summer and also coaches top club Odintsovo. Daughter Ekaterina Kosianenko (Pankova) was crowned European champion with Russia in 2013, finished third at the 2015 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, and also participated in the recent FIVB Volleyball Women's World Cup.
Ekaterina is her team's setter – just like her younger brother Pavel, who participated in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U23 World Championship this year and, as captain, is also a key member of the squad for the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship in Mexico from September 11-20.
Pankov only turned 20 on August 14, but is already regarded as the most talented setter in Russia. No wonder, given his family background.
“At first we did not think he was going to play volleyball. He was really small and dad let him play football,” said sister Ekaterina. “But then very quickly Pavel started to grow. Of course, there was no question about which sport he should take up: volleyball.” Pavel moved from the football section at Spartak Moscow, with whom he had been training for three years, to volleyball.
In the 2010/11 season, the teenager started playing in the top Russian league in the third team at Moscow’s famous Dynamo club. In the spring of 2011, he was called up to the Russian youth team for the first time. At the European Championships in Ankara, the Russian volleyball players won the bronze medals and 15-year-old Pavel, who was two years younger than his teammates and the youngest participant in the championship, was rewarded for his performance. This was the start of a fantastic career in the Russian youth teams.
“He has been learning how to play volleyball since he was a little four-year-old kid, because everyone in his family plays the game. His father played, his mother was an Olympic gold medallist and his sister is the setter in the women’s national team,” said Alexander Karikov, one of his coaches in the national youth teams.
“He is a very smart young man with an overall ability for the game.” The young man, who lists his favourite book as War and Peace, is not only a fantastic setter. At 1.98m tall, he is also a points scorer, thanks to his blocking ability and, above all, to his fearsome serves.
He has now proven his value against the world’s top volleyball players at various championships. 2013 was an outstanding year for Pankov, who won gold with Russia at the FIVB Volleyball Boys U19 World Championship, where he was also named MVP. Not long after that, he came away from the FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship with the title. Pankov and powerful hitter Victor Poletaev left many spectators in awe of their magnificent displays.
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Poletaev has already played for the Russian national squad this year, with whom he won bronze at the inaugural European Games and is now preparing for the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Cup, the first qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Pankov has now established himself in the first team at Dynamo Moscow. In 2015, he added victory at the Universiade to the title he won at the European youth championship in 2014.
Both dream of being a part of the Russian squad at the Summer Games in Rio in 2016. Should this come too soon, however, they also have their sights set on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“It would obviously be a dream to win a major title as a player, just as my mother and sister have done,” said Pankov. He certainly has what it takes.