Leyva is the captain of the women’s national volleyball team in Peru, a country where volleyball is practically a matter of state. Four former players are now congressional representatives and a fifth is in the polls as a potential presidential candidate.
The star of her team, Leyva ranks among the top four players in the world in her class, and she helped win Peru the gold at the 2013 Juegos Bolivarianos, a regional multi-sport event. The charismatic 18-year-old stands 5’11” and she’s smart and fearless on the court. Judging by her predecessors, Leyva could be anything she wants when she retires from the sport – and what she’d like to be is a surgeon.
At an age when many other young people are still negotiating later curfews, Leyva is turning to her parents for help in deciding where she should live. Teams in Italy and Brazil are fighting over this woman who just a short time ago was catching catnaps on the bus on her way home from a demanding training schedule.
In the era of Google Analytics, sports figures are measurable phenomena. And more than a million Internauts chose Leyva as the most popular player on the planet in the survey “My Volleywood Idols.”
“How has your life changed?” one journalist asked her shortly after she earned this distinction. She laughed, rubbing her hands together like a girl, and responded: “I have a car now. I don’t have to worry about falling asleep on the bus anymore.”
In Peru, Leyva has reawakened a hopeful nostalgia that dates back to the late 1980s, when the women’s national volleyball team took the silver at the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul. And those in the know wonder if Ángela Leyva might be the woman to lead her team to future victory.