Top scorer at age 22, even serve king at age 33
“I came this far because of my natural talent. I think I can leave another record (in the history of Korean volleyball) because I even serve this season.”
OK Financial Group’s Leonardo Leyva Martinez (33, Cuba, registered name Leo), who celebrated his 11th year of debut in the Korean professional volleyball men’s division, was honest. When asked, “Which one is closer between a genius type and a hard-working player?”, he pondered for about 5 seconds and admitted without hesitation that he was born with it. “I did not acquire talent through hard work. He was even lazy when he was younger,” he laughs.
It is said that after 10 years, the mountains and rivers change, but I met Leo, who commanded the domestic volleyball court, in Yongin on the 10th, showing off his unchanging strength with a confident physique and tremendous height.
“Korea is practically my family”
Leo first set foot on Korean soil 11 years ago at the age of 22. As a member of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, he blossomed his natural talent under the systematic guidance and affection of director Shin Chi-yong at the time. In the opening game of the 2012-2013 season, he scored 51 points and got off to an unusual start, winning the league’s MVP title for three consecutive seasons. Leo is still the only male player to have won three consecutive regular season MVPs. The ‘Korean Dream’ he achieved while receiving a monthly salary of 10 dollars while playing in Cuba became a big topic at that time.
After that, I left Korea for a while and ‘bombed’ another league. Since 2017, he has been playing in the Chinese league for four years and has not won, but he has won the regular league MVP twice as a member of Sichuan Chengdu. In the 2020-2021 season, he tasted the UAE (United Arab Emirates) league championship. 온라인카지노
Then, ahead of the 2021-2022 season, he returned with the nickname ‘King Leo’ wearing the OK Financial Group uniform. Leo said, “I think I actually started my professional life in Korea.” He explained the reason for his return, saying, “I wanted to play again here, where I was emotionally attached.” Although he was in his 30s and weighed more than 100 kg, there were skeptical eyes, but Leo showed off his strength by ranking third in scoring last season (870 points). However, the team stayed in 5th place and failed to advance to the postseason given up to 4th place.
Transform into an all-weather player equipped with a fierce serve
Leo, who went through a period of re-adaptation last season, runs 1st place (535 points) this season as of the 12th. Besides that, he runs first in the sub division. He lost his weight to 95 kg before this season and practiced by putting in over 100 serves every day. In particular, when he jumps without stepping on the end line, he intensively honed to serve like hitting a spike by floating vertically rather than leaning forward. It was powerful when talent was added to effort.
Leo has already had 75 serve aces (scoring directly as a serve) this season, almost twice as many as second-place Ahmed Iqbairi (40). In the match against Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance on the 8th, he set the record for the most serve points in an individual game with 9 serve aces. Since there are many serve aces, the number of serve aces per set is 0.974 (75 out of 77 sets), overwhelming compared to second place Heo Soo-bong (0.529). Leo even breaks the previous record (0.829 per set) set by Goergi Groser from Germany as a member of Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance in the 2015-2016 season. He said, “I am most proud of the sub division among the records this season.”
Thanks to his powerful serve, Leo made a mark in Korean volleyball history last December. He achieved a triple crown (more than 3 points each from blocking, serving, and back) in 4 consecutive games from Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance on December 2 last year to KB Insurance on the 16th. All attacks that a volleyball player can use have been perfectly executed. It was the first time in 19 years of professional volleyball. Leo said, “It was the most meaningful achievement I tasted last year.” Seok Jin-wook, manager of OK Financial Group, who also played as a fellow Samsung Fire Insurance 10 years ago, praised him, saying, “We have set a great record.”
What is the driving force that sustains him? It is her mother, Ines, who arrived in Korea on the 4th. Leo said, “My mother is everything in my life,” and “I originally played baseball, like all Cuban children, but it is also thanks to her mother that I started playing volleyball at the age of nine.” Thanks to Leo’s performance, OK Financial Group, which is ranked 3rd in the league (33 points, 11 wins and 9 losses), aims for a second consecutive win against KEPCO, which is 5th on the 13th.
‘Cuban Bomber’ equipped with a serve Leo
―Aposite Spiker ―Height
206cm, Weight 95kg
―Vertical jump 73cm
―2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015 Season 3 consecutive regular league MVP for Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance
―2021-2022 Returning to Korea after 6 years as a member of OK Financial Group ahead of the season
― 1st in scoring (535 points), 1st in subs (0.974 per set), 1st in sub-aces (75)
―For the first time in professional volleyball history in 19 years this season, triple crown in 4 consecutive games (blocking, serving, and rear guard scoring 3 or more points each) ※As of the 12th