Brazil’s beach ace bets on long experience
RIO DE JANEIRO, July 6 — If there is a sport in which Brazil can be classed as an Olympic power it is beach volleyball.
And if there is a player who embodies that strength it is Brazil's Emanuel.
At 39 years of age, the man from Curitiba is going to his fifth Olympic Games in London in search of a third consecutive medal.
Emanuel has been to all the Games that have included beach volleyball from the sport's Olympic debut at Atlanta in 1996.
He hit a peak in Athens in 2004 when he won the gold medal alongside his former partner Ricardo.
At Beijing four years ago, the favourites bid for second consecutive gold medal ended in the semi-finals with bronze a consolation prize.
Emanuel said he and Ricardo chose the wrong strategy against fellow Brazilians Marcio e Fabio Luiz, who were considered underdogs but upset the favourites.
“The big lesson I learnt is that every match is important, every match is a final and for every game you have to be 100 per cent,” Emanuel told Reuters in an interview.
“At the Olympics, it's a match a day that you have to go into like a final a day knowing something can go wrong and you need to know how to get out of that situation,” he said on the last day of practice before leaving for three warmup events in Europe.
The July 27-Aug 12 London Games come at the end of four years' preparation that began immediately after the previous Olympics including a radical change.
Ricardo, Emanuel's partner on the two Olympic podiums, has made way for Alison in a duo formed especially for London 2012.
A calm man who chooses his words carefully, Emanuel provides the balance in Brazil's duo on and off the sand.
A specialist in defence, he is regarded as one of the most skilled players on the world circuit.
The 26-year-old Alison has the physical vigour for blocking and youthful athleticism.
World champions in 2011, the pair are top of the circuit this year and go to the Games as favourites to fight for the gold medal with Olympic champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhauser of the United States. Brazil have a second duo in Ricardo and Pedro Cunha.
“I had the opportunity to take part in an Olympic Games at 23, I was very young, I didn't understand what an Olympics was all about, what was its scope and its meaning for my country,” Emanuel said.
His results at his first two Games fell well below expectations with ninth place in both Atlanta and Sydney.
“Today's Emanuel, at 39, understands how it works and what it means. I'm going to an Olympics a lot better prepared and with all the planning well done,” he said.
“You have to know what you're going to do and we're very confident in the work we've done.”
Brazil's nine medals in beach volleyball are more than any other country has won, although only two are gold (Jackie and Sandra in 1996, Ricardo and Emanuel in 2004), with five silver and two bronzes. The United States, with seven in total, have five gold.
“The most important thing is the system of professionalisation. All the Brazilian pairs today have a large and complete coaching staff. Brazil took a big lead in terms of structure,” Emanuel said after a practice involving nine members of the coaching staff.
“Those 10 people helping us make the training faster, we make the most of each minute of the practice. In the last 20 years it is the sport that has most progressed in its structure.”
Living and training in Rio, Emanuel has plenty of reasons to dream of a sixth Games when they are held there in 2016. He hasn't made a decision, though, and it will depend on talking it through with his wife, former Brazil team member Leila.
“I'm a very enthusiastic sportsman. We formed a partnership with Alison aimed at the Olympics, so 2012 ends the cycle,” he said.
“I think that in 2013 I must sit down with my family again, weigh up what to do, because I've already been playing for more than 22 years, it's been a long career.” — Reuters