New women's partnerships to watch in Itapema

Itapema will mark the final event for Agatha and Duda, and the first for many others

It could be a tricky trivia question, several years from now: which team won the most medals during the Tokyo Olympic quad?

Most would understandably jump to Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman, the Tokyo gold medallists, or Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, the world champs. Yet there was another team during the 2017-2021 stretch that nearly out-medalled both of those teams combined: Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa.

Theirs was a magnificent partnership, a five-year run that paired one of Brazil’s all-time great blockers in Agatha with the most promising talent in the world in Duda. Before she was even 20, Duda was being recognized by her peers at the world’s best offensive player, best hitter, and most outstanding, as she was named in 2018 and 2019. Duda had the good timing to both learn from and thrive with Agatha, a 38-time FIVB medallist, including a silver at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

From Rio to Tokyo, there was no more consistent team. Just twice in 41 tournaments did they finish outside of the top 10, and both of those occurred in 2017. Next month, in Itapema for the final event of the 2021 season, will mark the end of an era for Brazil’s top team. The four-star will be the last tournament Agatha and Duda will play together.

One partnership ends.

Many others begin.

Talita and Rebecca, Brazil

It wasn’t much of a secret that, following the Tokyo Olympic Games, Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva would be splitting up. They had begun the quad on such a torrid pace, winning three golds and a silver in their first five tournaments, that they immediately established themselves as medal favourites for Tokyo. They didn’t have a precipitous drop, but they hit a stretch of six tournaments with only a single medal and took a partnership-worst of 17th in Cancun. A silver in Gstaad was a brief boost heading into Tokyo, and a fifth at the Olympic Games was an excellent showing, but the steam had run out in the partnership.

Shortly after Tokyo, Rebecca picked up 39-year-old veteran Talita Antunes, a three-time Olympian who has been named in the FIVB Team of the Year on three separate occasions (2013, 2015, 2017).

They’ll be a formidable side out team, those two, and likely the No. 2 team in Brazil, behind the newly formed partnership of Duda and Ana Patricia.

Miki Ishii and Sayaka Mizoe, Japan

Miki Ishii has played 46 events on the FIVB Tour; 42 of those have come alongside Megumi Murakami. To see Ishii’s name without being followed by Murakami is just plain weird. But such is the nature of beach volleyball: even the most lasting of partnerships – like Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera, or Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo – must come to an end.

At 31 years old, Mizoe is no rookie, either. She’s been mostly absent from the World Tour scene in the last two years, playing in just three events, and only one in 2021.

Itapema will mark the beginning of Japan’s new No. 1 pair.

Angela Lobato and Maria Carro, Spain

It was only a year ago that Maria Carro was competing in youth events, claiming a fifth in the European Championships with TCU star Daniela Alvarez. Now the 22-year-old has been picked up by Spain’s Angela Lobato. For the past four years, Lobato has partnered with Amaranta Navarro, who always seemed on the cusp of breaking through before falling a little short.

Perhaps Lobato, who is 29, will make that breakthrough with the young Carro.

Fernanda Alves and Maria Antonelli, Brazil

When the Brazil federation cut its Olympic qualifying period last November, and Maria Antonelli found her and Carol Salgado just outside the mark – this despite them ranking in the top seven teams in the world – Antonelli wasted no time in starting a family. On January 7, she announced that she was pregnant, and on July 27, she gave birth to her baby boy.

Now she’s back, competing alongside 6-foot-2 Fernanda Alves, who put together a tremendous run with Barbara Seixas, narrowly missing the Tokyo Olympics as well.

Quick links:
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour - Itapema
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
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