Firm hands of Sicoli helping Ross and Walsh towards Rio dream
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 8, 2016 – As April Ross and Kerri Walsh continue their countdown to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games there will be a familiar face watching on from the sidelines, plotting their route to the podium.
Marcio Sicoli helped Walsh to her third Olympic gold medal alongside Misty May-Treanor at the London 2012 Olympic Games and he is aiming to do the same now that Walsh has teamed up with one half of the London 2012 silver medallists, April Ross.
The Brazilian is an understated figure and will be happy to let the spotlight fall on Ross and Walsh, but the pair have no doubt about how important his influence will be between now and the Games, which start on August 5.
“He has really taught me so much,” Ross said. “For so long I was dependent on my athletic ability, but Marcio is so knowlegable, I feel he has taught me a lot and I hope it will come through on the court.
“He has tweaked so many aspects of my game and I am really excited about getting out there to keep improving those skills out there on the court.”
Ross and Walsh are currently in Rio for the Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam, the first of five Grand Slams on the 2015-16 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
It is the first time that they have been in action since September 2015 when they competed at the Rio de Janeiro Open, the beach volleyball test event for the Olympic Games where they reached the quarter-finals.
Soon after Walsh underwent surgery on a shoulder injury that she had picked up earlier in the season, while Ross played at the World Tour Finals alongside Lauren Fendrick in October.
Road to Rio
The pair are still chasing qualification for Rio de Janeiro but are out of the top 15 places in the FIVB Olympic Rankings that would earn them a place on Copacabana Beach. However, if they return to the form that earned them four World Tour gold medals in 2014 a place at Rio 2016 should be theirs.
“As far as I know I’m 100 percent,” Walsh said. “The first thing was to get my full range of motion back and I’ve got that and am now working on getting the power back.
“Last year was a turning point for us. Since then I have been on a mission to come back stronger and I am well on my way to that. April and I have left no stone unturned to be ready for this year. Together on the court we have worked really hard to keep our momentum up from last year. We feel ready.
“Historically at this point, I had already qualified. That said nothing else is different. Last time I had a shoulder injury as well. This is familiar ground and it is such a fun, challenging journey. I feeling infinitely optimistic that we will qualify.”
Ross and Walsh are ranked eighth in Rio, just above compatriots Fendrick and Brooke Sweat.
The event continues the road to Rio that lasts until June 13, 2016 with FIVB World Tour events counting towards the Olympic Ranking in order to determine the 15 of 24 spots for each gender that will take part in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. After that teams have the chance to qualify through the Continental Cup competition.
“We’ve worked really hard this pre-season and we just want to come out and get going.” Ross said. “It is a great tournament and you can feel what it will be like in the Olympics at this amazing venue.
“The beach down here is covered in volleyball courts and people playing from dusk till dawn every time. Everyone is super fired up for this Grand Slam, but you can tell being down here that the Games are going to be so big.”
Watch yesterday's Team USA Media Summit Beach Volleyball Press Conference below.