Emanuel’s start and finish on the FIVB World Tour
Now 22 years, one month later, legendary Brazilian Emanuel Rego has announced his retirement from the sport after competing one last time at next week’s $800,000 Rio Grand Slam to be staged at the same site where the South American country will host this August’s Olympic beach volleyball competition.
Born April 15, 1973 in Curitiba, some 850 kilometers southwest of Rio de Janeiro, Emanuel played his first FIVB World Tour event on Copacabana with Aloizio Claudino during the first week of February 1994, where the pair placed fourth in the 28-team men’s field.
Between then and now, Emanuel has amassed 152 domestic and international titles highlighted by the Athens 2004 Olympic gold medal with Ricardo Santos. Prior to that success, Emanuel teamed with Jose Loiola to claim gold at the 1999 FIVB World Championships in France (Marseille) followed by another podium topping World Championship effort at the 2003 event on Copacabana.
In the years to come, Emanuel and Ricardo netted a bronze medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games followed by a 2011 FIVB World Championship title with Alison Cerutti. Emanuel teamed with Alison also claimed the silver medallion at the London 2012 Summer Games.
Since starting his beach volleyball career full-time in 1991 as a 17-year old, Emanuel has been the dominant player on the FIVB World Tour with 76 gold medals with five different players with the Rio Grand Slam next week being appearance No. 255 - the most by any player in the history of the sport.
With two other FIVB gold medals at FIVB-sanctioned events, Emanuel has also won 62 Brazilian domestic, seven American domestic, three Brazilian “King of the Beach” and two PanAmerican titles during his 25-plus season career. For FIVB events, Emanuel has set the standard for match wins (1,225), matches played (1,545), medals won (156) and “final four” appearances (174).
When Brazilian Olympian-to-be Pedro Solberg was asked about playing (nine events during the 2014 FIVB World Tour campaign) with Emanuel last week during the Maceio Open, the 27-year said “playing with Emanuel was great. Emanuel is very calm when he plays and leads by example. He respected 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. Playing with Emanuel has made me a more consistent player.”
Pedro Solberg (left) and Emanuel Rego at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour The Hague Transavia Grand Slam in 2014
When asked about playing beach volleyball, Emanuel said “it is a passionate sport. Beach volleyball is an attractive sport that is growing throughout the world. In addition to being competitive, the sport promotes an active, physical lifestyle. That's how I keep my passion for playing.”
Whenever interviewed at the start of any season about playing beach volleyball, Emanuel would consistently state the 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), Kerri Walsh Jennings (125), Randy Stoklos (122), 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, but this total does not include data from the Brazilian tour.
It was Kiraly’s first gold medal effort (indoor volleyball) 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.”
In his early teens, 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.”
When the curtain comes down on his three decades of playing beach volleyball next week at the Rio Grand Slam, Emanuel will always have been front-and-center on the stage of the sport. He began playing as a skinny kid in 1994 and ends with a legendary status that has established a standard that might never be broken.