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The timing could hardly be more inspiring. On the anniversary of Brazil’s first men’s beach volleyball Olympic title, Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego, the men with the medals, are back together. After a seven-year partnership, the Athens 2004 Olympic champions went their separate ways at the end of 2009 with a staggering 62 titles under their belts. Now, with less than two years to go until Rio 2016, they have decided to resume that successful partnership in a bid to once again experience all the excitement of taking part in the planet’s biggest sporting event, only this time in their home country.
“August is a golden month for us,” joked Ricardo after their first training session back together on Wednesday morning (13 August) in Rio de Janeiro. “Getting back together with Emanuel in the month that holds such special memories for us makes me very happy. Expectations will be high because of our history together, but times have changed and we are going to experience the biggest challenge of our careers. We want to put on a good show for Brazil in the 2016 Olympic Games,” he said.
And the Olympic Games are nothing new to the two Brazilians. At 41, Emanuel shares the honour, along with Australian Natalie Cook, of being one of only two athletes to take part in all five Olympic beach volleyball competitions since Atlanta 1996. A native of Parana, he has three Olympic medals; a gold, a silver and a bronze. Ricardo, 39 and from Bahia, has competed in the last four Olympics, winning the same medal haul as his partner.
The duo will be coached by Letícia Pessoa, herself the winner of three Olympic silvers, and they plan to dive into the Olympic spirit as soon as possible.
“Our training base will be in Rio de Janeiro so that we can feel the Olympic climate and atmosphere of the Games while we are preparing. Our experience will help us to tackle this in the best possible way and free of pressure. We have a winning history and expectation is high but we will be taking things one step at a time from now until the Rio 2016 Games,” said Emanuel, holder of 152 beach volleyball titles, a world record.
Between 2002 and 2009, Ricardo and Emanuel were the most successful duo in the history of Brazilian beach volleyball. In seven years together they won the gold at Athens 2004 and the bronze at Beijing 2008, a world title, gold at the Rio 2007 Pan American Games, and five world circuit and four Brazilian circuit titles. After five years apart, they have no doubt that they are still in top shape for competing in and winning the biggest international competitions.
“The experience that we’ve acquired over the years we’ve been apart will be very important to our upcoming challenges. We have competed side-by-side with younger athletes and have managed to adapt to the changes in beach volleyball, which now demands much more strength and height than it did 10 years ago. Ricardo and I, in our own ways, have discovered how to stay competitive and have achieved good results over the past few years. That’s why I’m confident that we have what it takes to form a strong pairing once again,” said Emanuel.
Between 2010 and 2014, Emanuel partnered Alison Cerutti, with whom he won silver at the London 2012 Games, and Pedro Solberg. Ricardo also joined forces with Solberg, as well as Márcio Araujo, Álvaro Filho and Pedro Cunha, with whom he took fifth place at London 2012.
Beijing 2008 silver medalists also back together
A second Olympic medal-winning Brazilian beach volleyball duo is also back together with an eye on 2016. Forty year-old Márcio Araujo and thirty-five year-old Fábio Luiz, silver medal winners at the Beijing 2008 Games and world champions during their first phase together between 2005-2010, have also returned to competition.
“We have a very successful on-court history and a great friendship off-court, which is why I was very happy at the prospect of competing with Márcio again. We have already experienced the Olympic climate together and will be in hot pursuit of our dream to take part in the Rio 2016 Games. For any athlete, taking part in the Olympic Games lights a flame inside and your objective is always to return to the Games. Despite the injuries I’ve sustained over the last few years, it has never ceased to be one of my aspirations,” said Fábio Luiz.
The two Olympic duos will make their comeback in the opening stage of the Brazilian tour in Vitoria, Espirito Santo, from 28 to 31 August. The qualifiers for Rio 2016 will start in 2015, with one Olympic place dependent on the outcome of the World Championship, 15 based on world ranking and seven to be decided by the results of South American and international qualifying tournaments.