Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo McMillan have been a successful World Tour partnership for 10 years now, winning seven World Tour medals (five silver and two bronze) and seven medals from European continental events. Also, they participated in two Olympic Games, at London 2012 and at Rio de Janeiro 2016. However, the team came to a break after the World Tour Finals in Toronto in September 2016, when Liliana decided to get pregnant. She has recently returned to the beach at the Fort Lauderdale Major in February 2018.
But now things are a little different, as the team has been joined by a third member, Baby Saul, who is touring with his mom (FIVB.com):
“Saul and my husband came with me to Huntington Beach. They were in Poland and now they are here. They will come to the European Championship too. It is the way we wanted to work, because I know that my travelling to World Tour events keeps me away from home for a long time. That is why we had to arrange things like this, to be together and see each other at least during some of the tournaments. Of course, I am keeping it all professional. During these tournaments my husband is the full-time babysitter, while I am staying in one hotel room with Elsa, not with my family, at least until the tournament is over. This way I am keeping the professional part and the personal part separate.
Having them around is really great. I look at them while we are warming up, or even during the game for a second, and I think to myself, ‘wow, we have a baby and I am competing at the same time – it’s so great!’ I feel really thankful, because I am doing what I really love, to play beach volleyball, and I am blessed with this family. I always wanted both things and now I have them and I can’t be more grateful. It is tough, but it is possible!”
The partnership’s return to peak performance has been slow and steady, as Liliana is getting back to her best shape:
“Elsa was playing with different partners, while I was at home, resting and really wishing to come back to play with her again. At the beginning I was not ready to come back, but we knew that. We just kept going little by little, tournament by tournament, and now this last month and a half was really great – we were starting to play our game, with ups and downs sometimes, but we will fix this during the season and next year. We are very happy now and we are going to try to keep improving. Our goal is to go to our third Olympic Games and have options for the medal that we always wanted. We are starting over again and we are aiming to be up in the main draw and have opportunities to get results, which can get us to Tokyo.”
Here are the duo’s post-pregnancy results so far:
- 25th at Fort Lauderdale
- 33rd at Xiamen
- 17th at Huntington Beach
- 9th at Itapema
- 5th at Ostrava
- 9th at Espinho