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Team of the Week: Agatha and Duda

Lausanne, Switzerland, October 20, 2020 – Experience and youth combine well in sport, but not always as well as Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa's partnership over the last four years.

When the Brazilians decided to join forces and become beach volleyball partners at the beginning of 2017, Agatha was 33 and fresh from the best two years of her career, in which she had won the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships and a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics with former partner Barbara Seixas.

Duda, on the other hand, had just turned 18. Even if her youth career, which featured a 2014 Youth Olympics gold medal and as many as four age-category world titles, indicated she would have a bright future ahead of her, she had appeared in just 15 FIVB World Tour events at that point.

The combination of a veteran at the top of her career with a hungry youngster with talent written all over her was exciting, but some saw the age difference as a concern. Not them.

“It’s like having a young sister,” Agatha said during their first season together. “She has great potential as an athlete and when we finish this cycle, she will be a different Duda. The age difference is cool – she brings the youth and personality and I come with experience. It’s a pretty cool mix.”

Their early successes were also a good indicator of things to come. They won their very first tournament together, a Brazilian Tour event in Joao Pessoa, and made it to a World Tour gold medal match on their first attempt, at the Fort Lauderdale Major, in just their second month of partnership. Three months later they celebrated their first international title in Rio de Janeiro.

Their debut season also ended on a high, with the Brazilians only being stopped by reigning world and Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst in the gold medal match of the World Tour Finals in Hamburg. One year later they returned to the same stadium even stronger and took the title, their second in 2018 following a second consecutive triumph in Brazil in May.

“This is certainly the biggest victory of my career,” Duda exclaimed after that final. “Except for the Olympics and the World Championships, this is the biggest beach volleyball tournament on the planet. It’s a special victory for us and it’s the first time I win a World Tour event outside Brazil.”

Victory at the 2018 World Tour Finals was key for Agatha and Duda

With 2019 arrived the start of the qualification process for the Tokyo Olympics, the main reason behind their union, and the Brazilians didn’t slow down. Gold medals won in Ostrava and in the Japanese capital in the Olympic test event, followed by a third-straight appearance at the World Tour Finals, demonstrated Agatha and Duda were right where they wanted to be a year ahead of the Games.

The young defender, by the way, answered any questions about her being ready to be part of one of the best teams in the world and carrying the huge responsibility of contending for an Olympic gold medal at such a young age with back-to-back awards as the World Tour's Most Outstanding Player.

“It was such an important year with Olympic points on the line and intense competition between the Brazilian teams,” she said at the end of the 2019 season. “I feel honoured to be awarded again, but I owe it to Agatha and my team, I wouldn’t have made it without them and for us, it’s a team victory, not an individual one.”

A lot has changed in 2020, but one thing remains rock solid – Agatha and Duda securing an international title for a fourth-straight year. They had only one opportunity to play overseas in the entire year and they made good use of it, adjusting to triumph at the 2020 King of the Court tournament in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in September.

“It’s our third time at a King of the Court tournament and we finished fourth in the other two,” Agatha said. “We came here determined to win it this time and it’s marvellous that we did. It’s our first time playing since March and while some of the other teams were back competing on their national tours a few weeks ago, we were still working out at home in different cities. I think we enjoyed our time at home a little bit, but nothing beats being on the court.”

If they can keep the pace, 2021 should be another great year for the Brazilians.

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