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There is no competition when the opportunities are not equal. There is no relationship without giving up something. Without the base, there is no top. You cannot win without using your head, and you cannot overcome a loss without using your heart. There is no harm that never ends, neither a party that lasts the entire life. For Adriana Behar and Shelda, in sport, as well as in life, happiness is part of the course. The ups and downs are a two-way road.
It was twelve years of partnership in Beach Volleyball and two Olympic finals. Six times World Circuit champions, twice champion in the World Championship, nine times in the Brazilian Circuit, a total of 1,101 victories and 114 titles. But in memory, they don’t keep with the numbers. Sport, for them, has another meaning.
“There is a word that translates what the sport is: fairplay. The sport, generally speaking, is very fair and honest. That is why the athlete’s image is so strong. You win thanks to your own effort, there is no way to be different. It is an athlete helping the other, because what really matters when you are there is the competition. It is nice to compete against somebody that has the same conditions as you. In the beginning of Beach Volleyball, without structure or money, we used to have our opponents sleeping at our homes. Holly McPeak was one of those who stayed frequently in my place. The girls who have defeated us in Sydney 2000, Cook and Kerri Pottharst, stayed in my place for 15, 20 days, four years before the Games. Afterwards, my mom joked about that: ‘I think we have helped them a lot, maybe more than we should have, don’t you?’ (giggles)”, says Adriana Behar. “My best friends were my opponents”, completes Shelda.
Technique and effort doubled
A pioneer in the sport, Adriana Behar has participated in the women’s World Circuit since its first edition, disputed in 1992. The partnership with Shelda, however, would start in October, 1995. Four years older, 15 centimetres taller, the differences between her and the friend were many. “We have always had different personalities, but yet complementary. We have always admired and respected each other a lot. And of course, as in any relationship, you have to know how to renounce”, she says.
With an impressive ability and 1.65m high, Shelda counted on 2.40m blocks and attacks of the partner as they competed against stronger and stronger opponents. The constant physical effort inside and outside the court had its price.
“Nothing is impossible, but it is hard to compete within today’s sports reality, because it is becoming more and more about physical strength. You can see that even in Swimming, Tennis. The athletes are huge, strong. In Beach Volleyball, it is also like that. You have to train harder than everyone, you have to push harder. The injuries come because of that, because we were always getting to our limit”, says Shelda, who is outside the courts since 2010, after two years of partnership and several muscle and joint problems.
Pain and challenge
Adriana Behar and Shelda were the first double to gather a team of specialised professionals, composed of a coach, physiotherapists, doctors and a nutrologist, and take them to the competition trips. They have dominated the sport in a time of change, after Beach Volleyball inclusion in the Olympic programme in Atlanta 1996. “Without this base, we wouldn’t get to the top. Everything we were awarded, we invested on our team, on our work”, remembers Shelda.
Indicated as the frontrunners for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, after four years as the best double in the world, they lost the final to the Australian team Cook/Pottharst in one of the greatest zebras of the Games. Adriana and Shelda have won 20 titles versus one of the opponents at that time. Head-to-head, the Brazilian team had 14 victories and two losses. In the first set, the scoreboard was 11 x 8, but Adriana and Shelda let the victory escape by 11 x 12.
“We had two options. We could quit, give up everything, or we could stand together, recognise our mistakes, make our decisions and face things ahead of us. It was the time that we got even more united, because just the two of us knew the pain we felt (she gets moved). We didn’t even make any accusations. Quite the contrary. I blamed myself, she blamed herself. We took our own responsibilities; we didn’t transfer anything to the other. That made us grow as persons. After that, we entered a new Olympic cycle, even though we knew we were not the favourites anymore, that we were getting old. Younger athletes were appearing. We were healing our wounds, each one in your own way. Day by day, we showed each other we wanted to keep fighting”, remembers Adriana.
The end and new beginning
In Athens 2004, the final against Kerri Walsh and Misty May had another flavour. As they were not the favourites, the Olympic gold has escaped from their hands, but the tears gave place to a smile. Some experts say Adriana Behar and Shelda are the best in history. Others say the title goes to the American double.
“Even though they were our opponents, our relationship with them is of mutual respect and friendship. They were Olympic twice-champions, and they were not the leaders of the World Circuit in terms of victories because they have opted to play in the American Circuit. The agenda is the same. But if you take into consideration the number of winning matches versus competed matches, it is an extraordinary performance”, says Adriana. “Once, Misty mentioned us as being her mentors. For me, this was a great honour”.
Retired from the courts for three years, Adriana works today in the Brazilian Olympic Committee. She was the Brazilian delegation head of mission in the Cingapura 2010 Youth Olympic Games. She is getting prepared to new challenges towards London 2012 and Rio 2016, now in the administrative area. Shelda runs a Sitting Beach Volleyball project for people with disabilities. The sport is still crawling in Brazil. They devote their time to create opportunities and transfer their knowledge. In sport, as in life, the ups and downs give some lessons. The differences are complementary. Victories and losses are two-way roads.