The Grimalt connection that ties Chile and Canada

 

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 11, 2016 – Mention the name “Grimalt” to players on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour and few people will hold back a smile.


Chilean cousins Marco and Esteban have featured on the circuit regularly since making their debut at the 2011 Brasilia Open, winning two silver medals at the 2014 Parana Open and 2014 Mangaung Open, and generally bringing a positive attitude to stops all over the world.
The pair come from a big family whose volleyball antics are well-known in Chile. Despite focusing on beach volleyball for the last five years, they both previously played the indoor game, citing their uncle, Rodrigo “Yoyo” Grimalt as one of many inspirations. 


With seven of their uncles taking up the sport, and an incredible six playing for the national team at some point, volleyball is weaved into their DNA.

But it is perhaps how the Grimalt family stood by a teammate off the volleyball court that provides the most interesting story.

A Canadian-Chilean connection
"The Grimalt family has always taken care of people,” said Marco. “All seven brothers always invited friends over to the house so it would get packed with 15 people.

“Melissa Humana-Paredes currently plays for Canada and her father lived in Chile,” he continued. “Our family took good care of him and helped him a lot throughout the troubled times. Nowadays, we are sharing with his daughter the same sports career.”


Humana-Paredes adds that her father, Hernan, was first attracted to playing volleyball in his native Chile because of the friendly atmosphere.

“He was always tall, he grew up to be 6'5 which was not normal,” she said. “He wasn't very coordinated, he said, until he started playing a little bit of volleyball because of his height. That's what attracted everybody to him. 

“But he loved it. He loved the challenge of volleyball. He said the atmosphere was more friendly, more inviting. And he got better. Every day he worked harder and he eventually made it on the national team and was one of their best players.”

However, the situation changed in Chile following the military coup in 1973 and although Paredes continued playing for the national side, it became harder to do so.

“My Dad's family left to Canada a few years before my father,” she said. “My father decided to stay to continue to play on the national team and to continue his studies. 

"And then one day he just had to leave the country because they were coming after him.”

Grimalts taking care of people
Hernan Paredes may have been forced to leave his country, but it was through no lack of trying from the Grimalts, who stuck to their mantra of always taking care of people.

“Fortunately one of the few people that helped him were the Grimalt family, and that was their connection,” Melissa said. “They played together on the team with some of the brothers. They played on the national team together but particularly, my Dad mentioned, their Grandfather, who I think worked in this technological institute, helped him find a job when nobody else would give him a chance and nobody would help him.

“He recently wrote a book called ‘Playing Under The Gun’,” she added. “It was hard to fathom all the atrocities they saw that their friends went through, that our family went through and so I think he just started to write them down, to share his experience with us. 

“And then it got to a point where he started remembering all these things, all the people that helped him, everything he went through and all the while still playing on the national team and how that experience helped him survive. 

“People think it is a sad book, but he likes to call it a book of hope.”

Hernan landed in Canada and became integrated with volleyball once again, eventually becoming a beach volleyball coach.

And for Canadian players John Keese and Mark Child it’s lucky that he did as he helped the pair claim Canada’s only Olympic beach volleyball medal with bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Games.

Quite an achievement for the coach from Chile and no doubt the Grimalts will be aiming to claim a medal of their own in Rio this summer.