Brazilian men, women both favored for beach gold in London
As the XXX Olympiad begins in London, Brazil's men and women's teams are both favored for gold when beach volleyball starts Saturday in the sold-out 15,000-seat purpose-built stadium at the iconic Horse Guards Parade venue|
London, Great Britain, July 27, 2012 – Led by defending FIVB SWATCH world champions and 2011 FIVB SWATCH World Tour champions in each gender in beach volleyball, Brazil is always considered a favourite to capture the gold medal and this year’s London 2012 Olympic Games will be no exception as leading the 24-team fields in each gender are top-seeded Alison Cerutti and five-time Olympian Emanuel Rego for the men and top-seeded Juliana Felisberta da Silva and second-time Olympian Larissa Franca for the women.
As if having two teams of that calibre at the top of the medal prospect list isn’t enough, Brazil also has one other team per gender that is considered among the medal favourites when this year’s Olympic beach volleyball competition starts with pool play on Saturday, July 28 in the purpose-built, sold-out 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parade as the majestic venue spills out into St. James Park in historic central London.
Seeded seventh in the men’s field is Brazil’s veteran four-time Olympian Richardo Santos and Pedro Cunha while for the women the second Brazilian team in the field is fifth-seeded Maria Antonelli and two-time Olympian Talita Antunes, giving Brazil four teams each capable of winning gold or at minimum a podium finish.
Brazil’s legendary Emanuel, 39, who is in his fifth Olympic Games where he won gold in 2004 and bronze in 2008, and the young lion Alison, 26, making his first Olympic appearance, have played together in just 31 FIVB SWATCH World Tour events and in 2011 won the World Tour season points title and the 2011 FIVB SWATCH World Championships. In those 31 events together, they have compiled an overall record together internationally of 161-37 for a 81.3 percent winning percentage. They have 22 final four appearances, with seven gold medals, seven silvers, seven bronze and one fourth place finish.
Individually, Emanuel has played in 222 international events with 162 final four appearances, 76 gold medals, 34 silver, 40 bronze and 12 fourth place finishes. Also as a legendary Brazilian veteran, Ricardo in his long career has played in 184 international matches with 119 final four appearances, earning 54 gold medals, 27 silver, 21 bronze and 17 fourth-place finishes.
Brazil’s other men’s duo is a new team as well with the veteran Ricardo, 37, a three-time Olympic medallist with a silver in 2000 with Ze Marco de Melo, a gold in 2004 and a bronze also with Emanuel in 2008, is teamed with a younger player as well in Cunha, 29. As a team, Cunha/Ricardo have played in just 14 international events together and yet still managed to qualify for this year’s Olympics with six final four appearances earning four gold medals and two bronze. As a team, Cunha/Ricardo have a 59-20 record for a 74.7 winning percentage.
After several days of practice at the inspirational iconic venue, the 24 teams in each gender will take to the sand for real starting Saturday in the magnificent purpose-built 15,000 stadium that rests in the shadow of legendary British Army commanders-in-chief memorial statues and the next door neighbour of No. 10 Downing Street, better known as the home of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Launching the fifth Olympics that will feature beach volleyball as a medal sport, the Brazilian women’s team are equally as formidable as the men.
Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa, the defending FIVB SWATCH World Tour and six-time World Tour season champions as well as the 2011 FIVB SWATCH world champions have played in 105 international events as a team although a knee injury forced Juliana to miss the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Larissa finished fifth with Anna Paula Connelly. In those 105 international events, Juliana/Larissa have earned an amazing 85 final four appearances, earning 44 gold medals, 20 silver, 16 bronze and five fourth place finishes.
On their road to London, Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes have played in 49 international events together earning a total of 33 final four appearances with eight gold medals, six silver, 11 bronze and eight fourth place finishes. Antunes was a 2008 Olympian, finishing fourth in 2008 with Renata Ribeiro.
The tandems in London have been split equally into six pools, playing each team in their group, with the top two advancing to the single-elimination knockout phase that begins on August 3 along with the two best third-placed teams. The remaining four third-place teams will then compete in playoff matches to determine which pairs will fill the final two places in the 16-team elimination bracket’s first round.
On the eve of his fifth Olympic Games, Brazil’s Emanuel said, “The Olympics always excites me. To be honest, I think we are a little anxious to get started. All the athletes want to start playing. I am honoured to represent Brazil for the fifth time and Alison and I will do our best to bring home the gold medal.”
Sixteen teams qualified for the Games through the Olympic Ranking which is based primarily on World Tour standings, with five more joining as winners of the AVC, CAVB, CEV, CSV and NORCECA Continental Cup Finals and two from the World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament. Great Britain has also been granted a berth as hosts.
Remembering back to Beijing and 2008, Larissa said, “These Olympics are very special to me because this time I will be playing with Juliana. It is not the same when you don’t know who is next to you on the sand. The most important thing here in London is to be able to play with her. The second is that we play well and that we are happy, and, of course, we hope for a medal. The Olympics will be totally different than the World Tour. The Olympics are a long tournament, so we need more focus, more concentration. You need to be strong mentally. Every match will be like a final.”
While the Brazilians may be favoured for gold in both genders, there are no guarantees in sports, especially not at the Olympic Games. While many other contenders will arise to challenge the talented Brazilians the most prominent road block could come from the reigning Olympic champions. USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers won the 2008 men’s gold medal in Beijing while winning the women’s in both 2004 and 2008 was the USA’s inspirational duo Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh.
The sold-out beach volleyball competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games is being held Saturday through Aug. 9 in a purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parade in central London.