Santiago, Chile, April 2, 2019 - Marco and Esteban Grimalt featured one of the biggest storylines of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour so far in 2019 as the Chilean cousins won back-to-back tournaments in March at Sydney and Doha.
The Grimalts, who became the first men’s or women’s beach volleyball team from Chile to collect a World Tour gold medal after they topped the podium in Tokyo in 2018, are now the only team from the South American country to have multiple victories in the same year.
Behind the success of the up-and-coming duo was a fellow South American, Paulão Moreira. The 49-year-old was a World Tour player himself, having competed in as many as 87 international events for his native Brazil between 1990 and 2003 with seven different partners.
The veteran, who is the older cousin and the self-declared inspiration of Brazilian legend Ricardo Santos, has won seven gold medals - five with long-time partner Paulo Emilio Silva and two with legendary defender Roberto Lopes.
After just nine months at the helm of the Chilean beach volleyball project, he confessed he was a little surprised by how the Grimalts performed last month.
“We are working very hard, but those victories were somewhat surprising,” coach Paulão admitted. “We knew we could compete among the best, but to win back-to-back tournaments was unexpected. Several factors contributed to their great moment, but I think the most relevant one is the change on their mentality. These results make us stronger but they also put more pressure on us. We need to understand we won’t always win, but we can always play well and that needs to be our goal.”
Paulão is a veteran on the international scene also at the coaching role, one he embraced in 2004, after a shoulder injury cut his playing career short. After he started coaching in Brazil, the veteran has taken his experience to Germany, Israel, China and Italy, a country he took to the Olympics twice, in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Italian Olympian Paolo Nicolai with former coach Paulão
His main goal with Chile is to take the Grimalts to their second-straight Olympic participation, following a 19th-place finish in Rio three years ago. The first steps were certainly promising, but Paulão’s experience prevents him from getting too excited about them.
“Winning these two World Tour tournaments was very important as it can help us to qualify for Tokyo, but it’s too early for us to have any sort of security about that,” Paulão explained. “We’re currently No. 3 in the Olympic rankings and that’s great, but it’s far from done. We have multiple options on how we can qualify and the most important thing is that we make it, it doesn’t matter how.”