Brazil Olympic beach volleyball champs form dangerous teams after split

Evandro, Bruno, Alvaro and Alison
FIVB
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HAMBURG, Germany — Rio Olympic champions Bruno Schmidt and Alison Cerutti are no longer partners.

But that is not necessarily good news for the competition.

“The teams they are with now make a lot of sense,” said NBC Sports analyst Kevin Wong, “and they are dangerous.”

The Brazilians split in May 2018 after four years together. Bruno said he and Alison mutually agreed to part in a quick conversation after a morning practice.

“We shocked the world at the time, but it was a smart decision,” Bruno said in an interview at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. “We couldn’t push each other more.”

They were coming off a 17th-place finish, their worst result in an international tournament since 2015.

“We accomplished everything we could together, so it got to a point where we needed new goals and motivations,” Alison said through a translator. “We decided to go different paths while respecting each other so much.”

Both are now competing with younger players.

Bruno, 32, who is nicknamed the “Magician” for his ability to dig balls that seem destined to hit the sand, joined forces with 28-year-old Evandro Goncalves.

Alison, 33, known as the “Mammoth” with a large tattoo of the animal on his side to prove it, teamed with 28-year-old Alvaro Filho.

“We both knew we needed to get younger to continue to play at a high level,” Bruno said.

Evandro, a reigning world champion, has been named the top server on the international tour every year since 2015.

“When Evandro serves, it’s like somebody is spiking down at you,” said three-time U.S. Olympian Jake Gibb, “whereas a normal serve has an upward trajectory.”

Evandro said his serve has been clocked as fast as 63 miles per hour, but he is confident that he has served faster in practice.

“There’s been several times where I’ve hit someone in the chest so hard that the ball bounces back over the net, but no bruises from my serve,” Evandro said through a translator. “That just happens when I attack the ball.”

Playing with a defender as talented as the “Magician,” who was named the international tour’s top defender four times, Evandro has had to adjust to blocking full time. Meaning after he unleashes a serve, he must run to the net to block, rather than remain in the back half of the sand to play defense.

The 6-foot-11 Evandro, the co-tallest player on the international tour, has the height to be an elite blocker.

His size also earned him a pair of NBA nicknames. U.S. Olympian Casey Patterson nicknamed Evandro the “Black Mamba,” a nod to Kobe Bryant. But Bruno, the nephew of the Olympics’ all-time leading basketball scorer Oscar Schmidt, jokingly refers to his lanky teammate as “Kevin Durant.”

To improve his blocking technique, Evandro studies film of Phil Dalhausser, the 2008 U.S. Olympic champion who has been named the international tour’s top blocker seven times.

“Evandro was already a pretty good blocker before, and now if he’s making moves, that’s scary,” Dalhausser said. “He has no holes in his game.”

The partnership between Alison and Alvaro was orchestrated by three-time Olympic medalist Ricardo Santos.

Alvaro was playing with Ricardo, a player he grew up idolizing and even once ditched school to watch practice.

After the duo won the Brazilian national title in April, the 44-year-old Ricardo told Alvaro that he would be better off playing with Alison.

“I’ve never heard of a partner telling a partner to go play with another one,” Alvaro said. “I didn’t know what to say.”

Ricardo even called Alison to recommend Alvaro.

“Now I see why,” Alison said. “[Alvaro’s] such a great player … we are meshing really well.”

Alvaro is nicknamed the “Goat,” although he is quick to point out that the animal is common in his native Brazilian state of Paraiba and he is not actually the “greatest of all time.”

The 6-foot-1 Alvaro was named the international tour’s top rookie in 2013, the same year he finished second at worlds with Ricardo.

“Alvaro is deceptively big,” American Stafford Slick said shortly after losing to the Brazilian duo in three sets at the world championships. Brazilian men’s and women’s pairs won their first 19 pool-play matches in Hamburg, with the knockout rounds starting Tuesday. “If he was walking through the crowd, you wouldn’t think much of him, but that guy flies and has a whip of an arm. He’s tough to block.”

Evandro and Bruno are the top Brazilian pair in the Olympic qualification rankings, followed by Alison and Alvaro. A maximum of two Brazilian teams can go to Tokyo.

Evandro and Bruno won their last tournament before worlds. In the final, they ended the 23-match win streak of the top-ranked team in the world, Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum.

“I am not sure we are in our best shape yet, but we will get there,” Bruno said. “Evandro has pushed me to a level I almost forgot I could get to.”

Guilherme Torres and Nick Zaccardi contributed to this report

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MORE: Beach Volleyball Worlds TV/Stream Schedule

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
Getty
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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