Torben Grael

Yana Marques
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Who is Brazil’s greatest Olympian?

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Brazil’s two major sports are soccer and volleyball (indoor and beach), but no soccer players make this list. It’s because most male soccer players only play one Olympics (Neymar being an exception), and the Brazilian women (who have a legend in Marta) haven’t won an Olympic title. Brazil has others to choose from who earned medals at multiple Olympics … 

Escadinha
Volleyball
Four Olympic Medals

Sergio Santos is known as Serginho or Escadinha, the latter translating to stepladder. The libero shares the record for most Olympic volleyball medals. Escadinha reached the final of every Olympic tournament he played, the last in Rio at age 40. He grew up in a favela on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. It was thought his national team career was over after the 2012 London Games, but longtime Brazilian coach Bernardinho called him back in 2015 for one more run. Wise move. Escadinha was named tournament MVP, leading Brazil to home gold. After the Olympics, Escadinha’s farewell match with the national team drew 35,000 people.

Fabi/Sheilla
Volleyball
Two Olympic Gold Medals

Brazil’s greatest female Olympian has to be an indoor volleyball player from gold-medal teams in 2008 and 2012. No other Brazilian women own multiple golds. Six women made both of those Olympic volleyball teams. Of those, Fabi and Sheilla had the most acclaim. Fabi was the best libero at the Beijing Games. She later earned best digger and best receiver honors in other major international competitions. Sheilla, an opposite and Brazil’s top scorer at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, rejoined the national team last year after a retirement. Another medal in Tokyo could vault her ahead of Fabi.

Torben Grael
Sailing
Five Olympic Medals

Competed in every Olympics from 1984-2004, making the podium in five of his six appearances. Grael memorably lost gold in 1988 due to a broken mast in the final two-person Star race. His gold medals came in 1996 and 2004, the last one at age 44, both with Marcelo Ferreira. Grael became the first sailor to earn five Olympic medals, a record later tied by Brit Ben Ainslie and countryman Robert Scheidt. Grael and Scheidt were due to face off in Brazil’s Olympic Trials in 2008 before Grael withdrew.

Ricardo/Emanuel
Beach Volleyball
Three Olympic Medals each

The only Olympic men’s beach volleyball team to win multiple medals. Ricardo and Emanuel earned gold in 2004 and bronze in 2008. Each legend also earned a silver medal with a different partner at other Games. Together, they own the international men’s beach volleyball record book. Emanuel grew up so skinny that he didn’t play soccer and had to transition out of indoor volleyball. Even when he started playing professionally on the beach, he was called “Bones.” Ricardo was a converted soccer goalie. Ricardo and Emanuel broke up in the London Olympic cycle because Emanuel wanted to move from Joao Pessoa to live in Rio full-time with his wife.

Robert Scheidt
Sailing
Five Olympic Medals

Extended Brazil’s sailing dominance after Grael bowed out of Olympic competition before the Beijing Games. Scheidt, like Grael, earned medals in five of his six Olympics. Scheidt, like Grael, earned golds in 1996 and 2004 (Laser class, not Star). In Rio, Scheidt placed fourth in a bid to break his tie with Grael and Ainslie for the Olympic sailing medals record. A U.S. Olympic coach once called Scheidt, “the Michael Jordan of sailing.” His world championships record — golds spanning 1995 to 2013 — betters Grael’s. Scheidt is still competing at age 47 — after a reported retirement in 2017.

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Brazil Olympic legend sailor says Guanabara Bay ‘looks horrible’

Torben Grael
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro has missed a once-in-a-lifetime chance to clean polluted Guanabara Bay, the venue for Olympic sailing, Brazil Olympic sailing legend Torben Grael said in a recent interview.

“We always hoped that having a big event like the games would help,” Grael told Canada’s CBC television. “We ourselves put a lot of pressure to make it happen, but unfortunately it didn’t happen when they had money. And now they don’t have money, and so it’s even worse.”

Grael won five Olympic medals in sailing: two gold, a silver and two bronze, matching the record for a Brazilian Olympian. He has sailed for years in Guanabara Bay and hoped the Olympics would prompt a wholesale clean up.

“I don’t think we’re going to see that change now,” Grael said, according to a transcript of the interview given to The Associated Press this week. “It’s part of the way politics administration goes here. Everything grows very quick and very disorganized.”

Brazil is in the middle of its worst recession in decades, and the state of Rio de Janeiro has been described as “broke” by acting governor Francisco Dornelles.

The state is responsible for maintaining the bay, which has been described as an open sewer by many local and foreign sailors.

Rio treats only about half of its sewage, dumping the rest untreated into the water around the city.

A year-long analysis of water quality by the AP has found dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria in Olympic and Paralympic venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathlon and long-distance swimming.

The International Olympic Committee, backed by the World Health Organization, has repeatedly said athletes are not at risk.

“I don’t think you’re going to get sick,” Grael said. “It just looks terrible.”

Many athletes are expected to arrive in Rio in advance to build up immunity. Others will come in just days before, hoping to minimize the impact. Many will take antibiotics, bring bleach to cleanse equipment, and try to minimize contact with the water.

“You know the garbage can slow your boat and that’s not good,” Grael added. “I think they’re going to be careful collecting the garbage in the racing areas, but that’s going to be just for the games and after the games it’s going to be what we know. We thought we could have some change, some legacy there. But it’s not going to happen, unfortunately.”

MORE: Ex-World Sailing CEO says he was fired over Rio’s polluted venue