Lausanne, Switzerland, September 15, 2015 - You could say he inherited the volleyball gene. “I have photos of myself as a six-year-old with a volleyball, practising with my dad,” Facundo Conte once said. He played football and handball and regularly went swimming, but volleyball was always number one.
He almost gave up the sport as a teenager, however. "Between the ages of 12 and 13, I almost stopped playing. Being the son of Hugo Conte came with too much baggage. Also, people talked a lot and thought I played because a deal had been struck. Eventually I got over it and decided to face my future and not leave the sport, because I really enjoyed playing. Everything I am today I am thanks to him and all that he did.”
The ‘he’ Conte refers to is Hugo Conte, his father. Now a coach, he was also one of Argentina's top players, remembered in particular for his contribution to the country's bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games.
Conte's mother Sonia Escher was also a volleyball player and played in the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas.
It was almost to be expected that Facundo and his two sisters Camila and Manuela would follow their parents into the sport.
“Neither their mother nor I influenced Facundo’s decision to play volleyball. We never wanted to. It is important that everyone understands their role in life, otherwise it is difficult,” said father Hugo.
Conte has definitely accepted his role in life and has matured into a globally recognised volleyball star. But his family remain important and he recently celebrated his 26th birthday with his parents ahead of Argentina's participation in the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Cup.
"I have a Whatsapp group with my family and they support me every day. I learned from the best: my parents and my sisters,” said Conte. "With my dad I talk a lot, before and after games. I learned everything from watching him. It helps me a lot to deal with things.”
The most important thing he learned from his father is “to have fun, play with passion, trust your team-mates and be clear in your head in important moments”.
Hugo Conte: “My wish is that he makes his own history, as he already is doing.”
It goes without saying that there is a minor internal battle going on within the family. But Facundo Conte has made up a lot of ground recently.
Last year, he won the Polish championship – one of the strongest leagues in the world – with Skra Belchatow. In July, he helped Argentina to victory at the Pan American Games in Toronto - his country’s first triumph in 20 years - and was named the competition's MVP.
Conte: “It's the first medal for this group. It is very important because we had never won anything. We were missing a win with Argentina,” said Conte afterwards. "This, together with the Polish championship, are the titles that I have achieved in my career. The two gold medals of my life.”
After the success at the Pan Am Games, Conte rewarded himself with a brief but well-earned break.
However, the man who has played for top clubs in Argentina, Italy, Russia and Poland was soon back playing.
“There is still a year to Rio and we could spend this time doing a thousand things. But we have a path that we must follow if we want to succeed,” he said.
That path has led him to the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup in Japan, where the first two tickets for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are up for grabs. After five matches in the competition, he is his team's top scorer and Argentina are placed fifth in the competition's ranking.
Conte has one major goal in his family duel: “My father already has an Olympic medal. I hope someday to have one too.”