The International Volleyball Hall of Fame inducts its 2022 class on Saturday. We are profiling all six inductees, including this feature on Fernanda Venturini. You can watch the ceremonies in Holyoke, Massachusetts, live at 7 p.m. Eastern. Get all the information at www.VolleyHall.org.
When speaking about the history of Brazilian women’s volleyball, it takes a lot for someone to stand out. But Fernanda Venturini does just that. Regarded as one of the most important and influential players in Brazilian volleyball, if not the world, Venturini is a four-time Olympian and considered one of the world’s best setters.
The twists and turns of Venturini’s life and her volleyball story read like a Hollywood movie. She started playing the sport at age 11 on medical advice to help correct a scoliosis problem. Just four years later, she moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil to live on her own and play for Pao de Azucar, also capturing her first world title in 1987.
Two years after that, she was playing in her first Olympic Games in 1988 in Seoul. Still a teenager, Venturini made an impact for the Brazillians as an attacker.
Yes, you read that right. One of the world’s best setters played in her first Olympics as a hitter.
After a sixth-place finish at the Games, Venturini was convinced to change her position to setter due to her refined techniques, skill and fundamental precision.
Terry Liskevych, former USA Women’s Volleyball Olympic Coach, faced Venturini many times over the course of their careers.
“Fernanda was an extremely athletic, highly-skilled, intelligent and very competitive player,” he said. “In the 1988 Olympics she played as an opposite and by 1992 and beyond she was the 5-1 setter on an ascending Brazilian team. Under the guidance of Bernardinho, they became a top three team in the world.”
At the 1994 Grand Prix, Venturini won her first title with head coach and fellow 2022 International Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee Bernardo “Bernardinho” Rezende and was named Best Setter at the event. The team continued its streak, capturing three silvers at the 1994 World Championships, the 1995 Grand Prix and the 1995 World Cup, gold at the 1996 Grand Prix and a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
After retiring from the national team to focus on professional volleyball, Venturini was the only Brazilian athlete named among the top four greatest women’s volleyball players of the 20th Century, as recognized by the FIVB in 2000. With this induction into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, she joins all three players on that Top Four list, as Russian Inna Ryskal was inducted in 2000, Cuban Regla Torres was inducted in 2001 and China’s Lang Ping was enshrined in 2002.
Venturini’s career wasn’t done. She continued in professional volleyball, capturing yet another Superliga title and being named Best Setter and Best Player. She rejoined the Brazilian National Team in 2002, leading the team to a silver medal at the 2003 World Cup and the Grand Prix medal the following year. Brazil finished fourth at the 2006 Athens Olympics, and Venturini retired after capturing her 12th Superliga title.
But her experience and drive kept her coming back.
“My concern goes now to helping the young players, to give them my experience and composure,” Venturini has been quoted as saying.
She interrupted her retirement for a second time, joining a European professional team formed by stars from around the world, leading her teammates to victory in the Queens Cup and Spanish Superliga. She was named Best Setter of the event.
All-told, Venturini’s teams competed in four Olympic Games, winning bronze in 1996, as well as 12 Brazilian Championships, two world Champions, three Grand Prix titles and countless other events. She has played in more than 342 international matches and has multiple recognitions as Best Setter and Best Player.
Not only that, she is also a cultural icon, having her own Barbie doll as well as making appearances on daytime soap operas and game shows.
Liskevych couldn’t agree more with Venturini’s own assessment of herself, her work ethic and influence both on and off the court.
“She is a great player and was an excellent player on one of the best teams in the world. Fernanda is a great role model of poise and game intelligence.”