Lausanne, Switzerland, May 20, 2016 – Twelve teams will compete in FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Group 1 hoping to reach the Finals in Bangkok, Thailand from July 6 to 10. As the competition draws near we turn the spotlight on Brazil in the 10th of a 12-part series.
Brazil – Keeping their top three stronghold
World No.3 Brazil have maintained their stronghold on the World Grand Prix podium for the last eight years. The South Americans have been a consistent podium finisher between the period of 2008 to 2015 with four gold medals, three silver medals and a bronze in their last appearance. Prior to this, they won six golds, two silvers and three bronze medal finishes since the World Grand Prix started in 1993.
Brazil’s reputation can be easily summed up as the most successful squad at the World Grand Prix with a total of 17 medals. In terms of participation, Brazil come third behind China and Japan, with the most appearances in the premier annual women’s tournament. In their 23rd appearance, Brazil hope to stay in the top three or add another gold or silver medal to their World Grand Prix silverware.
After they captured back-to-back crowns in 2013 and 2014, their performance dipped in 2015 as they missed the services of key players such as middle blockers Thaisa Menezes and Fabiana Claudino, and opposite Sheilla Castro, who all have been instrumental in their reign in the last eight years. Sheilla and Fabiana took a break after they had been on the road playing for the national team. Thaisa, who has been a mainstay since 2008, was sidelined for five months to recuperate from her knee surgery.
Without their key players, Brazil still dazzled in the preliminary round of the 2015 World Grand Prix as they scored an unbeaten run, only dropping two sets in the process. Two Asian squads – Japan and Thailand – were fortunate to snatch one set each in this dominant run by Brazil. Brazil won over Japan 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 27-25) in their opening match in Bangkok, then won over Thailand 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-14, 25-19) on home turf in Sao Paulo.
When they got to the final round in Omaha, top two finishers United States and Russia stunned Brazil in straight sets. Brazil conceded to Russia 3-0 (25-19, 28-26, 25-19) and to USA 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-21). They completed the Final Six with three victories and two losses for a third place finish.
This year, Sheilla, Fabiana and Thaisa are back in the lineup, which is likely to help the team in their 2016 campaign at the World Grand Prix and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where they will compete for a third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
Brazil won the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games to become the third team after the Soviet Union and Cuba to retain the Olympic title. They also took the bronze medal at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. They are also 19-time South American champions. The Brazilians are only missing a gold in their silverware at the World Championship, but they have won three silver medals and one bronze medal.
Player to watch – Thaisa Menezes
Thaisa Menezes’ fame and success are the result of her hard work and passion for the sport. The middle blocker has won two Olympic gold medals, three World Grand Prix titles and a bronze medal at the World Championship in Italy. Thaisa has also won many individual awards with the national team and several more titles from playing in club tournaments.
At a young age, she already knew the value of achievement through hard work. She started playing at the age of 13 at Minas Tenis Clube. The Rio de Janeiro native worked hard as she was determined to accomplish her goal of becoming a good player, and she succeeded as she earned a spot to play for her local club. Bigger things came her way as she was summoned to play for the youth national team.
Thaisa’s name emerged from a talented cast of athletes from the youth and junior national teams. When she stepped up to play for the senior team, she immediately made an impact with her consistency in offence and solid net defence. Now she is a big star and her achievements serve as an inspiration to a lot of young athletes.
At the World Grand Prix, she won as Best Server in 2011, then she was named as Best Blocker the following year. At the 2013 edition, she bagged two awards – the Best Middle Blocker and Most Valuable Player. She also claimed the Best Middle Blocker honour at the 2014 World Championship in Italy.
At club level, Thaisa earned three medals with club team Osasco at the Women’s Club World Championship. She won a gold medal in 2012 and silver medals in 2010 and 2014.