There are still nine months until the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but Brazil has already determined the beach volleyball teams that will represent the country at the Japanese capital next summer.
With the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) releasing the 2019-2020 World Tour calendar on Wednesday, the Brazilian Volleyball Federation confirmed that Alison Cerutti and Álvaro Filho and Evandro Gonçalves and Bruno Schmidt will be the country’s men’s teams in Tokyo while Ágatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa and Ana Patrícia Ramos and Rebecca Cavalcanti will compete in the women’s Olympic tournament.
The early appointment of the teams is a result of an internal qualification system established by the Brazilian Federation, which decided to consider only the results of World Tour four and five-star events between February 2019 and February 2020 and the 2019 World Championships to determine which teams would be selected to compete in Tokyo.
After the international calendar announcement, it was confirmed that there will be only one eligible tournament until the deadline, a four-star event in Chetumal, Mexico, in November, but its result won’t impact the top two spots of the rankings. Technically, Brazil still needs to secure its two spots per gender in Tokyo via the FIVB qualification process, but with three teams in the top ten of both the men’s and women’s Olympic rankings, that shouldn’t be a problem for the South Americans.
Brazil’s Olympic beach volleyball roster will have four returning veterans and four debuting players and Evandro and Bruno form the only team in which both athletes already have Olympic experience. The 33-year-old Bruno will try to defend the gold medal he won at the Rio 2016 Games with Alison while the 29-year-old Evandro will be looking for his first medal following a ninth-place finish with Pedro Solberg at the Copacabana beach three years ago.
Bruno and Evandro joined forces in February, right at the start of the qualification period, and had a gold medal in Warsaw, a silver in Jinjiang and a bronze in Gstaad as their best results in 13 international tournaments together.
“Qualifying was just our first goal,” Bruno explained. “During an Olympic quad you have a few different phases and this was the first one for us. Our next step is to develop better chemistry as a team since we’ve only been together for eight months now. We want to have good results during these months we have until the Games as they would boost our confidence, but I believe that motivation and focus play a big role too. That’s what we’ll be looking for until Tokyo.”
As his former partner, Alison also had a bouncy road to secure his third Olympic appearance — he won silver in London 2012 with the legendary Emanuel Rego. After splitting with Bruno, he joined 2017 world champion André Loyola in May 2018, but the team didn’t take off and he switched to the 28-year-old Álvaro in March.
The team powered through country-quotas and qualifiers to secure four-straight semifinal appearances in the final portion of the 2018-2019 season — winning gold in Espinho and silver in Vienna and Moscow — and end as the top-ranked team among the men in the Brazilian internal rankings.
“The last year and a half weren’t easy,” the 33-year-old Alison reflected. “The clock was ticking and we had to deal with a lot of pressure because we had no time to prepare and needed results right away. We knew we’d have five months and there was no room for mistakes, so all we could do was focusing and working hard and to hear we made it, it’s very special, it means a lot.”
Among the women, Agatha, 36, is the only Olympian set to make a return as she took silver with former partner Bárbara Seixas at the Rio Games. Paired with 21-year-old phenomenon Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa since 2017, the veteran had remained among the beach volleyball elite for the entirety of the quad.
The team has played in 32 international events and took a medal home in 15 of them, with the highlights being golds at the 2018 World Tour Finals and this year’s Olympic test-event in Tokyo.
“It was very tough, I was scared, I felt the pressure and the pain of losing, there were so many different feeling on my first Olympic cycle,” Duda wrote on her Instagram account. “But there was no shortage of hard work, commitment and belief. And I would do it all over again because it’s absolutely worth it. Thanks, Agatha, for letting me experiencing these moments with you, we had years of sweat and love inside the courts.”
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Foi muito difícil, senti medo, senti pressão, senti a dor de uma derrota,foram muitos sentimentos no meu primeiro ciclo olímpico. Mas, nunca faltou trabalho, dedicação,abdicação, fé, persistência. E hoje estou aqui pra dizer que faria tudo de novo, porque vale a pena. Obrigada @agatha_rippel por viver esse momento ao seu lado, e dizer que foram anos de suor e amor colocado dentro da quadra. Agradeço, minha comissão por toda a entrega dia a dia. Obrigada minha família, meu amigos, fãs… ❤️ Por fim, conquistamos a tão sonhada vaga de Tóquio 2020. Obrigada Deus. 🙏🏽
Rebecca, 26, and the 6-4 Ana Patrícia, 22, can be considered the dark horses of the Brazilian qualification process. The two had little international experience when they joined forces in 2017, but still managed to collect medals in nine of the 20 FIVB World Tour events they played, including golds in Qinzhou, in 2018, and the Hague and Xiamen this year.
The team, which is coached by the legendary Reis Castro, who led Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta to years of World Tour domination, upset the most experienced duos of Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima, Bárbara Seixas and Fernanda Berti and Maria Elisa Antonelli and Carol Salgado to clinch its spot in their first Olympics.
“When it all started, we had to fight so much just to make it into main draws and to think we’re qualified now, it’s hard to believe,” Ana Patrícia told VolleyballMag.com. “It was an uphill battle and to come out on top after all we went through, it makes me really proud of our team. I always dreamed about being at the Olympics one day, but didn’t really know what it would take to get there, so this journey has been very, very special to me.”
Brazil has traditionally been a power in Olympic beach volleyball as the country leads the medal table of the sport in the Games with 13 medals — three gold, seven silver and three bronze. The United States have won 10 medals total, but is the nation with the most golds — six.
Guilherme Torres covers Brazilian volleyball for VolleyballMag.com. To see his other contributions:
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