Emanuel Eminence Enhanced
Gstaad, Switzerland, July 9, 2014 - When talking about the “elite” players on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, men and women players from powers Brazil and the United States dominate the conversation along with competitors from Argentina, China, Germany, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.
However, the one player that usually leads the conversation when talking about records is 41-year old Emanuel Rego of Brazil, who is in the midst of his 24th season of competition. Since starting his Beach Volleyball career full-time in 1991 as a 17-year old, Emanuel has amassed 150 international and domestic titles to rank No. 1 all-time.
In a sport where being over 40 is not necessarily a “negative”, Emanuel tops numerous record lists on the international scene where the US$800,000 Gstaad Grand Slam marks his 241st FIVB-sanctioned event since starting his world-wide travels in 1994 with Aloizio Claudino as a 20-year old.
Rego is paired with 28-year old Pedro Salgado in this week’s FIVB World Tour event in the Swiss village of Gstaad where the Brazilians are seeded third in the men’s competition where main draw pool play started here Thursday. The women’s “money” rounds started Wednesday as the 15th annual Gstaad Grand Slam ends Sunday for both genders.
"Beach Volleyball is a passionate sport,” said Emanuel after this first match Thursday where he and Salgado scored a 2-0 (21-17 and 21-17) win in 39 minutes over the Ingrosso twins (Matteo and Paolo) of Italy. The victory was Emanuel’s 1,179 match victory in 1,473 FIVB-sanctioned matches. For matches played in Gstaad, Emanuel has maintained the 80.0 winning percentage as Thursday’s opening victory was his 64th on the Swiss village courts in 80 matches.
“Beach Volleyball is an attractive sport that is growing throughout the world,” said Emanuel, who is playing in Gstaad for the 14th-time with eight podium placements and three gold medal finishes. “In addition to being competitive, the sport promotes an active, physical life style. That's how I keep my passion for playing.”
Despite playing the sport since he was 17, Emanuel still feels he “must develop and improve his game each year to maintain his ranking as a top Beach Volleyball player. I enter each season seeking to learn something new and to constantly improve my skill set. As you get older, you must be willing to learn something new to keep up with younger players that are becoming bigger and stronger. It is a challenge as you must maintain your physical shape to keep up in this very active and demanding sport. We play throughout the year, so you have an opportunity to improve each week along with developing your game.”
Of all the accomplishments Emanuel has achieved during his career, the “one” record that has not been recognized properly is the standard for all-time career wins when combining both domestic and international titles.
Americans Karch Kiraly (148 titles), Sinjin Smith (138), Randy Stoklos (122), Kerri Walsh Jennings (118), Misty May-Treanor (112) and Kent Steffes (110) are recognized by Dennis Wagner’s www.bvbinfo.com web site as the world leaders in total domestic and international wins. Emanuel is listed seventh on Wagner’s rankings with 86 titles as this total does not include data from the Brazilian tour.
The only player in Olympic history to win gold medals in both Volleyball disciplines (Indoor - Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988, and Beach Volleyball - Atlanta 1996 with Steffes), Kiraly’s Beach Volleyball career spanned 29 season starting in 1978 when he was 18 and ending in 2007 when he was 46. Overall, Kiraly’s titles total features three FIVB-sanctioned gold meals and 145 titles domestically.
Emanuel’s first domestic medals in Brazil were in 1994 when he topped the domestic podium five times that season with Aloizio (four times) and ZeMarco deMelo. Emanuel’s 150 career victories features 78 FIVB-sanctioned gold medals, 63 domestic titles (60 tour and three King of the Beach crowns), seven victories on the American domestic tour and two Pan-American Games championships.
“Karch should be recognized as the greatest Volleyball player of all-time due to his Olympic achievements of winning gold medals in both disciplines,” said Emanuel, who has won gold (Athens 2004 with Ricardo Santos), silver (London 2012 with Alison Cerutti) and bronze (Beijing 2008 with Ricardo) at the Summer Games.
“His focus was mainly on the American domestic tour where I had the honor of competing against him for three seasons in the late 1990s,” said Emanuel. “Karch was always helpful when I started playing in the United States and provided a lot of encouragement. He truly ranks as a Beach Volleyball legend - on and off the sand. He was a mentor for me as I learned a lot by watching him play.”
It was Kiraly’s first gold medal effort at the Los Angeles Olympic Games that inspired Emanuel, then 11 years old, to take up Volleyball as his sport of choice. “I was a skinny kid growing up,” said Emanuel, “and I was always getting hurt. I really became interested in the sport in 1984 as the United States defeated Brazil for the gold medal with Karch leading the way. His play really inspired me.”
Emanuel remembers watching Kiraly play in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1980s when the FIVB began sanctioned international Beach Volleyball events. “I can’t remember the exact year, but it was on Copacabana and Karch was playing with Pat Powers. I was so excited to see him play in person after watching him on television at the Olympics.”
Kiraly and Powers played together at FIVB events in Rio in 1987 and 1988. The pair placed second in the very first FIVB-sanctioned Beach Volleyball event after losing the final to compatriots Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos. The next year, Kiraly and Powers defeated Luis Amerigo and Bernard Rajzman in the finals.”
Emanuel feels his accomplishments on the Brazilian domestic tour “are as valuable and worthy as those achieved by Kiraly on the American domestic tour. The Brazilian tour has been very competitive since the first-time I competed in 1991. Our problem is that our tour does not promote our accomplishments like the Americans. The Brazilian tour is more about the moment while the American tour promotes the legacy and connects the dots from event to event.”
Emanuel, who remembers only missing two international tournaments due to illness, and Salgado formed their partnership at the start of this season. “Playing with Emanuel has been great,” said Salgado after his team’s opening match Thursday. “We have not produced a great result yet this season as we are still learning to play together. Emanuel is very calm when he plays and leads by example. He respects my aggressive and emotional style. I am not like him, so he lets me play my game. He does not teach me, but he works with me to make our team better. Right now, playing with Emanuel has made me a more consistent player.”
Salgado said the team’s initial goals this season was not “to prepare for the Rio Olympics. Our main goal was to learn to play with each other and adjust to each other’s style. I think we are accomplishing that right now, so maybe a bid together for Rio will materialize. Right now, we are just trying to get better as a team and win as many matches as we can. The FIVB World Tour gets tougher each year and you experience a lot of highs and lows. So playing with such a calm player like Emanuel helps you with the emotional roller coaster that we experience each week.”
Despite his age, Emanuel is still seeking to participate in the Rio 2016 Olympics where he will continue his record of being the only man to compete in all six editions of the Summer Games. "I know for me it's a little bit harder because in 2016 I'll be 43 years old, said Emanuel. “It’s a good feeling when you go to your own country to play at the Olympic Games. I want to be in Rio, for sure."
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