What do you miss about the last few decades

"Always give 100 percent"

Women's volleyball is more popular than ever in Germany. And Michaela Mlejnková is right in the middle of it all

March 4, 2021 - Interview: Klaus Hanisch, cover picture: Vince Fleming

PZ: You were runner-up three times with Stuttgart between 2016 and 2018. Before the play-offs, Allianz MTV Stuttgart is engaged in an exciting race with SC Dresden for the top position in the women's Bundesliga. Would you be very disappointed if you only came second this season?
Michaela Mlejnková: When I know that I did everything I could to win and that my opponent was better in the end, I'll say bravo and congratulate them. I think if you give 100 percent and it still isn't enough in the end, you just have to accept that and move on. Everything has a reason!

Games in the women's Bundesliga are often sold out, in normal times there are usually more spectators than in the men's volleyball Bundesliga. Now the ranks are empty because of Corona, but Stuttgart recently ended the triumphal procession from Dresden with twelve victories in a row, won the top game easily and with 3-0. Do you even miss the audience?
Of course I miss the audience! The spectators are like an extra player for us and make us play even better. Especially in phases when things are not going so well for us, we know that they are there and help us get back into the game. This season is just very specific and everyone has to get used to it. I really hope that the next season will be normal. From the beginning.

In the recent 3-0 victory of Stuttgart in Aachen, a new record for the Bundesliga was set in the third set with 42:40. Usually a set in volleyball ends at 25 points. Stuttgart's coach and the head of sports complained about the high level of nervous stress for them. How did you experience this 82-point record as a player on the floor?
That was actually a totally crazy sentence ... Yes, it was a bit stressful for me too. I think it came about because we all made avoidable mistakes in that sentence.

Allianz MTV is still the reigning champion because the season was canceled last year due to Corona. Stuttgart won the title in 2019 immediately after you left the club after the three runner-up championships. Did that annoy you very much?
Over the years I've been here before, we've always been close to winning the title. No, so it didn't annoy me. I was happy for the club because after all the silver medals, he just deserved it. And it was only a matter of time when this would happen.

You played for Stuttgart from 2015 and at the age of 19, and then for two years in Poland from 2018. Corona not only affects volleyball, but life and everyday life in general. Is it true that you returned to Stuttgart last year because of the health system in Germany?
At the time when I was deciding where to play in the future, Stuttgart was the best option for me. And yes, it's true: Security and the certainty that I would be as safe as possible in this difficult time in terms of health also played a role in my decision to come back here.

Corona also affected the Champions League. Allianz MTV fought respectably against the best in Europe in February despite being eliminated in the group stage. You were even voted the most valuable player in the game against Kaliningrad. The venue was also there, but masks supposedly served more as fashion jewelry than as protection. Were you afraid, was the inadequate compliance with the corona rules also a reason why you did not make it to the quarter-finals?
No, I felt pretty safe. And I finally felt a little more freedom there, life was a bit more normal again. That was definitely not the reason why we didn't qualify for the quarter-finals. The decisive games were the two against Eczacıbaşı Istanbul, where we played really well, but lost twice when we should have won 3-1.

Volleyball is the strongest women's professional league in Germany. Neither football nor handball or basketball have such budgets. In addition, there are more and more sponsors and more and more broadcasts on television. Does this boom also exist in Czech women's volleyball?
In the Czech Republic, there is a stream of almost every volleyball game on the Internet. On television, however, a game is only ever broadcast on Mondays, either by the men or by the women.

The women's national team was recently successful. The Czech Republic won the European Golden League, played in the final of the "FIVB Volleyball Women’s Challenger Cup" in Peru and, despite three defeats, also did a respectable job in the Olympic qualification in China. What is your goal with the national team?
The biggest goal for us this season is to qualify for the European Championship in 2021. After that we will try to defend the title of the last Golden League.

In an interview with the “Prager Zeitung” (“The home advantage counts”), the Czech handball player Markéta Jeřábková cited the influence of her family as an important reason for her becoming a competitive athlete. Did family play a role for you too?
In fact, that was the case with me too. My father was already a volleyball player and is now a coach for young players. And he was my first trainer. So yes, as with Markéta, my family was very important to me.

Without the influence of your father you could have become a high jumper with your height of 1.85 meters, for example. Have you ever thought of that too?
I actually did athletics and was a really good thrower. I was close to becoming a javelin thrower. But because my father played volleyball himself and I accompanied him the whole time, I finally decided to only play volleyball.

Volleyball is considered modern and attractive - and so are the players. The slogan of your club is something like “Stuttgart's most beautiful sport”. There are always picture galleries and photo series on the Internet or in magazines with the most beautiful volleyball players in the world. Do you see this as an appreciation or rather as a nuisance?
I think it's okay when you have a nice body. Then why shouldn't you show it?

In West Germany, volleyball got a big boost, especially from the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The GDR was the men's world champion as early as 1970 and was the women's European champion in 1983 and 1987. But in the last few decades beach volleyball has become more and more popular in this country. Do you see beach volleyball as competition?
It's a completely different sport for me. I tried many times in the summer. Beach volleyball requires a lot of stamina. You play outside most of the time, so the wind has a big influence. And it is also not easy because there are only two players on a team on the large field. You have to be mentally very strong, for example when your opponent only serves one player and your teammate cannot do anything to help him.

You are among the best in the women's Bundesliga, probably also in Europe, and you only signed a one-year contract in Stuttgart. Will you stay on the Neckar next season?
At the moment I cannot answer that question. For now, I want to focus on the most important part of the season. After that I will decide how to proceed and look for an answer to it.