Olympic champions Mari and Paula to continue partnership at the beach


Brazilian pair Mari Steinbrecher and Paula Pequeno tackle new challenge on the sand

Lausanne, Switzerland, November 6, 2019 – Two players who helped Brazil achieve key successes over the last 15 years will attempt to prolong that winning trajectory after Beijing 2008 Olympic indoor champions Mari Steinbrecher and Paula Pequeno announced they will form a beach volleyball team next season.

The 36-year-old Mari and the 37-year-old Paula, who is also a London 2012 Olympic champion, were staples as outside hitters for the Brazilian national team for several years and they will now follow in the footsteps of compatriots Jackie Silva, Ana Paula Connelly and Leila Barros, who after ending remarkable volleyball careers started a new journey in the sands.

Mari Steinbrecher and Paula Pequeno in their playing days for Brazil

The initiative came from Mari, who after training in the sand with another member of Brazil’s 2008 Olympic team, outside hitter Jaqueline Carvalho, after the end of the country’s last domestic season, in May, started considering a move to the beach.  

“Jaque invited me to practice in the sand and I kind of fell in love with it,” Mari explained. “We thought about playing beach volleyball together, but she ultimately decided to continue her volleyball career, so I went after Paula. We’ve been friends for so long and it will be amazing to have her by my side in this project. It’s a huge challenge and a new sport for us, but we are confident we can succeed. We know we can lack some technique and even some experience, but nothing beats our chemistry and the love we have for each other.”

The move was not on Paula’s radar and the impact of her first training session came in a way she didn’t expect.

“I had never thought about playing beach until Mari invited me and I thought it would be fun for us to start this new chapter together,” the two-time Olympic champion explained. “I was destroyed after the first day of practice, but it’s funny that instead of pushing me away it actually made me realize this would be a huge challenge, but one that I was willing to take on.”

The team will be based in Sao Paulo and will be coached by Alexandre Rivetti. The short-term plan is to continue preparing until the end of 2019 and start competing in the Brazilian Tour next year and then, hopefully, get to play in the World Tour.

The dream of returning to the Olympics in the Paris 2024 Games is the main goal, but both Mari and Paula know that many obstacles will have to be overcome.

“We know people will expect us to be as good as we were in volleyball,” Paula added. “We’ve been using the word transition to describe this moment, but I’d call it a transformation. It’s almost like we were butterflies when we were playing indoors and now we’re back at the cocoon stage so we can grow all over again. We are very aware that we’ll go through difficult moments and that we’ll lose a lot in our first matches, but we’re willing to learn from them and just the fact that we wanted to take the risk and move outside of our comfort zones at this point makes me really proud.”

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