Buenos Aires, Argentina When J. Lazcano of Argentina competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she brought a wealth of playing experience with her.


J. Lazcano Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

At the time, she was 27 years old and had already played professionally in Italy and France. She had also competed in a number of big international competitions, including the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships, the 2015 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, and the Pan-American Games.

J. Lazcano Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

In spite of this, keeping their emotions in check in Brazil was challenging for her and her colleagues. Anxieties were understandably high as the Argentine women’s national team, known as “Las Panteras” (The Panthers) in their own country, approached the Maracanazinho arena for the first time in Olympic history.

In a live Instagram interview with the Argentinean website Somos Voley, J. Lazcano remarked, “It was our first time at the Olympics and we were all really enthusiastic about that experience.” The arena was pitch black and the only sound was the pounding of our hearts as we walked onto the court for our first game.

I had no sensation in my lower body; it was as if I were floating. These recollections have given me a new appreciation for how challenging it must have been for us to keep our emotions in check and perform at our peak.

As a First-Time Olympic Participant

Argentina placed ninth overall and won only one of their five matches (a five-set nail-biter versus Cameroon). The team had shown good progress on the international scene in the seasons leading up to the Games, finishing in eighth place at the 2015 World Cup and making their first appearance at the World Championship in 12 years, but the players felt they were unable to play to their potential at the Olympics.

The Panthers have qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and their new captain, J. Lazcano, is confident that their nervousness won’t be an issue this time around. The team’s middle blocker admitted that they had hoped for greater results in Rio but that they had developed as players and people thanks to the experience.

Several Olympians have told me that their second Games were the ones in which they were able to truly shine. I certainly hope that describes us! Emotionally, it’s a very different tournament than others, but by Tokyo, we’ll have figured out how to deal with it.

Argentina is in Pool A at the Tokyo Games, along with China, Italy, the United States of America, and Turkey, having qualified by virtue of their victory in the South American Qualifying Tournament in January.

J. Lazcano thinks the team is technically stronger than the one that played in Rio four years ago since most of the veterans are still with the group and are supported by a brilliant crop of younger players like setter Victoria Mayer and middle blocker Bianca Farriol.

I think we have the capacity to surprise a lot of people,” J. Lazcano said. Younger players who joined the team after the Rio Olympics raised the bar for the whole squad and injected fresh vitality into the group. From where I sit, we’re ready to take on any squad in the world.