Emanuel eyeing back-to-back world titles
Despite being ruled out of the opening event of the year - the Fuzhou Open, which starts on Tuesday - due to an injury to partner Alison this week, the Brazilian star still had plenty to celebrate having turned 40 on Monday.
The beach volleyball legend is the only current player to have played in every Olympic Games and has three World Championship titles to his name in addition to the complete set of Olympic medals - gold, silver and bronze.
Now, in his 21st year of competing on the international beach volleyball circuit, Emanuel has two main goals for the year – to return from the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stare Jablonki in Poland with the gold that he and Alison Cerutti won in spectacular style in Rome in 2011 and to regain the FIVB World Tour that the duo lost to the USA’s Jacob Gibb and Sean Rosenthal in 2012.
“Poland is my main goal and we have been training for it,” Emanuel said during the Brazilian national tour which ended on Sunday. “We have been thinking about Poland, while playing the tour here in Brazil. It’s a great opportunity for me and Alison to keep the title."
“I’ll need to watch the first few events on the World Tour and then we’ll see who our likely major challengers will be. We need to prove ourselves in every match. That’s our focus, to improve every game until we get there because first we’ll need to build a good campaign to win there.”
As well as losing their World Tour crown in 2012, Emanuel and Alison were unable to add the Olympic gold to their world title at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The pair lost an absorbing three-set gold-medal match to German’s Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann in just over an hour at the Horse Guard’s Parade.
It meant that Emanuel was unable to add a second Olympic gold to the one he won with Ricardo Santos at Athens 2004 and the bronze the pair claimed at Beijing 2008.
However, with a fourth World Championship gold medal on offer in Poland, Emanuel has been able to maintain his focus. Furthermore with Alison having won the 'King of the Beach' title in Brazil, the pair do not lack the drive needed for victory.
“At the end of the year we had 30 days off, and since January 7 we’ve been in training and preparing,” he said. “The body is good and mentally I feel good."
“I’m still in love with beach volleyball and that is the most important thing. During the last Olympic cycle, it was the best that I played throughout my career and that feeling is still motivating me as well as working with younger players. We now have a national team which gives me the chance to pass on advice and set an example and I’m very happy with this new situation.”
As someone who made his debut during the 1993-94 season and has a record 10 World Tour titles to his name, Emanuel has witnessed many changes to the sport he has graced for almost two decades. These changes include the current expansion of the World Tour Grand Slam calendar being supplemented by an increased number of open tournaments and the Confederations and World Cups.
Emanuel feels that the sport is well-placed to increase the number of teams that can compete for the top titles, as well as build on the growth in interest that has come after the London Olympics.
“Right now beach volleyball is on a high and I think the Brazil national team will keep the sport up high as we will have more athletes,” Emanuel said. “But, where is the new generation from the US, Norway, Switzerland?"
“We needed more events. Sometimes players came to the World Tour and play just two matches a week. The new beach volleyball calendar provides more opportunity to play and for players to decide on the tournaments they play. It’s a good opportunity to bring in new teams. In the last five years we have had the same teams playing all the time.”
Emanuel key facts
• Holds the record for the most number of international beach volleyball tournaments played in with 224 with the recently-retired Martin Laciga of Switzerland second with 216.
• Voted by his peers as the Most Inspirational Player and Sportsman of the Year for the past two years.
• Most number of medals won on the international circuit with 152. Second best is former partner Ricardo Santos with 102 from 186 events. Emanuel’s total includes 76 golds (next best is Ricardo with 54).
• Is the richest player to ever have played beach volleyball with $2,346,885 in career earnings.
• Has won four of more gold medals in 13 different seasons with five different teammates.
• The most consecutive tournaments won by a men’s team was six by Jose Loiola/Emanuel Rego (1999, Norway, Italy, France, Austria, Portugal and Belgium).
Player Bio http://www.fivb.org/EN/BeachVolleyball/Player_DataDB.asp?No=100427