Liliana has been crazy about sport since she was young. She realised that beach volleyball was the one for her when she was just 13, but she never imagined that she would be a three-time Olympian, most recently at the Tokyo games with her partner on the sand, Elsa Baquerizo.
She was just 18 when she moved from Benidorm to Tenerife after accepting an invitation from the Arona sports hub and she has been a resident of the island ever since.
This is where she married and had her first child. She lives in La Laguna and trains in Las Vistas, a beach that she says is “a luxury” for training for competitions,and after 16 years in the area, she knows what a fantastic place this is for athletes.
You’ve been into sport since you were very young, but you chose beach volleyball, and you are now about to compete in your third Olympics. What is it about this sport that you love so much?
I’ve been involved in all kinds of sportsince I was a child: football, athletics, karate, as well as ballet and learning the piano! I couldn't keep still...
Actually, since the second time I tried volleyball was when I was 13 (my first experience at the age of nine was not so good), I've been hooked, and I love it. I finished the academic year with the other activities and then focused entirely on volleyball. I knew what I wanted.
I don't know exactly what it is about this sport that people love so much... In my case it was a desire to succeed, because volleyball has a lot of technical aspects that you need to master, which is mentally challenging, as well as physical and technical demands. It has everything you need for learning and daily challenges.
Of course, I dreamt about competing in the Olympics, but taking part in three of them and finishing among the top ten in the world? If someone had told me that would happen when I was 13 I wouldn’t have believed them... The London games in 2012 were a dream come true for me.
When youwere 18, you were invited to play beach volleyball in Tenerife at an elite training centre in Arona, and you jumped at the chance. What was it like moving from Benidorm to Tenerife? How did you find training on the island?
Actually, the first time I came it was a temporary thing, a two-week period that I really enjoyed. At the time, I got a lot of positive reinforcement during the training sessions from Sixto Jiménez and Daniel Wood, who were the first and second coaches of the CETD in Arona at the time. My mother helped me to take the final decision because I was afraid to leave home and my family (the club I belonged to forced me to choose between Benidorm and Tenerife). She calmed me down, told me to try it and that if I didn’t like it I could always come back.
I remember that everything seemed very new when I first went to the island. Living without my parents, having to get organised with washing machines, cleaning, and so on. Every day we would go from the gym to the sports hall in Los Cristianosfor weight training and then on to the flat or to the beach. For the first year, everything revolved around training, until I started studying tourism in 2006. That was when things started getting more difficult, because I had to catch the bus to the north every day to study and when I got back I had to do weights and beach training and go to the gym three times a week. Those were very demanding months.
I have fond memories of that lovely time of my life, until I moved to the north in 2012.
You met Elsa in Los Cristianos and became the first Spanish pair to represent this country in beach volleyball together at the Olympics. How important is Tenerife to your professional career?
Without Tenerife, without the CETD, without Sixto (who chose Dani as the coach at the centre) and without Dani as a coach later on, things would probably be quite different. It would have been a different story. But the conditions were ideal for working and fighting for everything we wanted and desired so much.
And of course, we were also lucky that it all came together... If Elsa had not come to Tenerife to the CETD or if I hadn’t come... What would have happened? Most likely nothing.
It was our training base for 16 years, first with Dani and then with Sebastián Menegozzo, who was also a beach volleyball player in the nineties and who came to the island to play the Winston and the Camel at the time. He liked Tenerife so much that he brought his wife from Argentina to live here! He believed in the project, and he joined our little group after my first child was born in 2018. We hit it off straight away and made an incredible team.
Goodness me! How time flies! What's more, Ihave my family here. I have a husband and a son, and I have put down roots in La Laguna.
You are based on Las Vistas beach. After visiting the beaches of the world, how would you describe it? What makes this island different from other beach volleyball training destinations?
The fact is that training on the beach is fabulous. Seeing the sea, listening to the waves, watching people reading and strolling. It isn't the same as training in with a sand court far from the beach.
Las Vistas is quite peaceful for most of the year, and we have sand courts marked out so we can practice while everyone else enjoys the beach at the same time. There are hotels, apartments, supermarkets, restaurants, and gyms nearby, which is very convenient for teams, who can choose what kind of accommodation they want, what to eat, their gyms, etc.
Tenerife is a popular destination for international teams to have training camps, particularly in winter. This also makes it possible to train with top level partners. Would you say that Tenerife is among the top destinations for elite volleyball players? Why?
Until recently, the United States and Brazil dominated the sport, but little by little, beach volleyball has been professionalised in countries like Canada, Russia, Germany, Switzerland and, of course Spain, and they are all getting more competitive.
Each team has its own plan and way of working, and the facilities in Tenerife, coupled with the climate, make it the base of choice for all European teams for the December to March pre-season, more or less.
In addition, it is not just professional athletes who come to Las Vistas. There is also a local beach volleyball club that trains all year with Carlos Velázquez who played at Canary and National level when he was a juvenile. And this is not by chance. Las Vistas and Los Cristianos have a long history of beach volleyball and shows at a professional and amateur level.
What did you do to make sure you arrived in Shiokaze Park in tip-top condition?
This is turning out to be a difficult year, with so few competitions and we have done almost nothing but train for the last year. Elsa, Sebas (our coach) and I are trying to give it our all every time we train to be in the best possible condition. It is difficult to stay at competition level, but we are all in the same boat. So, we need to adapt and do everything as best we can.
Beach volleyball is becoming a more professional and much more competitive sport. This means that we have to factor in countries that did not come into medal equation. This is incredibly good for our sport, but of course, it is getting more and more difficult to get into the medal zone.
How would you describe the Canary Islands in one word?
What are the must-sees in the Canary Islands?
You absolutely have to visit all eight islands. They all have a unique charm and beauty. Until a few years ago I hadn't visited all of them but now I am in love with them. It shows, doesn’t it? It’s marvellous living here. The scenery, the gastronomy, the people are very friendly and pleasant... In short, living in the Canary Islands means quality of life.