Nataliia Klimenova made it to the top of the leagues while playing volleyball for her native country, Ukraine. However, she changed her life for the opportunity to come and play on a team in Canada, striving to play in the defencive position of libero for Mount Royal University.

Klimenova said Mount Royal and the Cougars gave her the opportunity to show the talent she has and provided her with many opportunities, not only when it came to playing volleyball, but also when it came to achieve a higher education and being able to create a stable life for herself.

Klimenova said, “When I said that I wanted to go here, I said, ‘I will choose by myself where I want to study, and what I want to study.’”

Although Klimenova believes she made the right decision for herself to come to Canada to continue pursuing volleyball, she said she has been through many challenges to get here. The required English tests, in particular, made it difficult for her to make it into the country.

“To enter the university you should have, like, 6.5. I had 6.3 and 6.4, but not 6.5,” Klimenova said.
Picture 3Nataliia Klimenova played volleyball in her native country of Ukraine before coming to Mount Royal University in the fall of 2017. She plays libero on the Cougar’s Women’s volleyball team and works with the team to work towards their goals. Photo by Erica MackIt took a few tries before she was able to score to be able to attend university in Canada; though she still has a heavy Ukrainian accent, which can make some English wording hard.

Klimenova said she wanted to pursue volleyball from the young age of five years old but has had to adapt to her height and overcome injuries.

Volleyball players are expected to be tall, the average height being around 5’10”, in order to excel in the sport, but Klimenova is only 5’6”. There were many times in Klimenova’s life where she experienced people telling her she was too short and would not excel in the sport that she loved.

“To play somewhere in a higher league of divisions you should be way taller than I am,” Klimenova said. “So they were like, no it’s unrealistic for you.’”

Height was not the only challenge that Klimenova had to overcome. She injured her knees while playing, which led to her needing to make a very hard decision.

Klimenova said, “I could not even walk on the stairs; it was extremely bad and the surgeons were telling me, ‘You need surgeries on both knees.’ So it was a hard decision.”

“I was beating myself on whether I should have the surgery because I wanted to succeed, I wanted to stay.”

After battling with her injuries, she decided to face them head on and battle through them instead of having surgeries, even if she had to alter the way she was playing to take some of the pressure off of her knees.

“The biggest part is that people nowadays who make the surgeries, the team persuades them to recover faster, to come back on court faster,” Klimenova said. “That’s why they do not heal extremely well. And then, for example, in five or four years you will have tons more problems that you will not have had before.”
Screen Shot 2019 04 08 at 2.05.00 PM copy copyNataliia Klimenova (Centre – Blue Jersey) celebrates a point made with her fellow teammates on Mount Royal University’s Women’s Volleyball Team. In this game they were playing against Brandon Bobcat’s in November 2018 at Mount Royal University’s gymnasium. Photo by Erica Mack
Klimenova moved to Calgary for the fall 2017 academic semester, although she was not able to start playing with the team until January of the following year.

A former teammate of Klimenova’s, Alex Donaghy, played on Mount Royal’s team with her during Klimenova’s first year. Donaghy said Klimenova, at 29, brought a “really strong presence” to the Mount Royal team.

“She is older than everyone else on the team here, and she has so much experience. It was really cool to play with her and also learn from her,” Donaghy said.

Several of Klimenova’s teammates said that she brings a lot of talent and a positive attitude to the team. They described her as always very supportive, but still competitive when necessary.

Sandra Lamb, the Cougars’ women’s volleyball coach, had nothing but good things to say about Klimenova.

“She is a young and spirited woman,” Lamb said. “She’s very passionate about volleyball; she cares a lot. She fits right in; she is fine. Obviously she’s got quite a bit more experience, but she is just one of the girls when she is around the team.”

Klimenova is hoping to finish her degree in sports and recreation management, and remain a part of the volleyball team, enjoying the time she spends with the other girls on the team.

“I understand this culture. I understand this cultural difference. I accepted this, and I am okay nowadays. I’m at classes and I like to speak with people, and it is extremely cool,” Klimenova said. “Thanks to God I did it.”

Editor: Matt Hull |

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