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.

BEST OLYMPIANS: Canada | China | Germany | Italy | Japan

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Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement

Mariel Zagunis
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For the 76 U.S. athletes who had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics, a new waiting game has begun, and many of them are talking through their mixed emotions on social media.

Shooter Kayle Browning‘s thoughts played out in real time. She gave a glimpse of her new routine on YouTube (after tending to her dog, who had to go out) but didn’t know whether she would keep her spot on the team. She learned afterwards that USA Shooting intends to keep its qualified athletes on the team despite the postponement.

Fellow shooter Phillip Jungman also went from sadness to relief: “When I saw the news that the Olympics was postponed, my heart dropped a little. A few hours later @usashooting put out an official statement backing all of their athletes that had earned Olympic berths. I just wanted to take this moment to thank them for supporting us all in this time of so much uncertainty.”

LIST: U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Olympics

Other athletes were relieved that the uncertainty of knowing whether they would have time to train was no longer a problem.

Modern pentathlete Samantha Achterberg: “Lots of mixed emotions, but a sense of relief in some ways.”

Fencer Mariel Zagunis, who has qualified for her fifth Olympics, quipped that she’s throwing herself a “pity party” but was “glad a decision was made sooner rather than later.”

“Disappointed that I won’t be able to go out and fence in the Olympics in 2020, but I’m relieved that the IOC is putting global health first,” said fellow fencer Alexander Massialias.

Several athletes sounded as determined as ever.

“News of the postponement of the Olympic Games means its time to adjust the goggles and refocus,” said triathlete Summer Rappaport.

“Let’s roll,” said sailor Paige Railey. “One more year to become stronger and healthier!”

“I’ve waited my whole life for this moment,” said marathoner Molly Seidel. “To make the @olympics safer for everyone I’m willing to wait a bit longer.”

“If these past years have taught me anything it is that I am capable of going through hell and high water for the sake of achieving the Olympic Dream!” said taekwondo athlete Paige McPherson.

Sailor Charlie Buckingham spared a thought for Olympic organizers:

” I can’t help but think of Japan and what they’ve endured to host the games this summer, only to be faced with the current global situation. To have responded the way they did so quickly is impressive and knowing their culture, next summer’s show will be even better.”

The U.S. softball team is adding one year to a 12-year wait since the sport was last contested at the Olympics in 2008.

“(N)othing has changed as far as the mindset, the work ethic or the goal that we have as a team,” said Valerie Arioto.

Swimmer Ashley Twichell, who had locked down a spot on the open-water team, supported the decision but expressed disappointment and urged “everyone right now to acknowledge whatever feelings they’re having – anxious, sad, confused, lonely, scared, isolated, stressed, frustrated, just to name a few – and know that they are validated.”

But Twichell also drew inspiration looking ahead: “The Olympics can wait, and they’ll continue to be the beacon of hope that they’ve always been, perhaps now more than ever.”

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First U.S. sailors qualify for Olympics; gold medalist misses on tiebreak

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The first five members of the U.S. Olympic sailing team were finalized this past weekend. The last American sailor to win an Olympic title missed on a tiebreaker.

Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea (49er FX), Anna Weis and Riley Gibbs (Nacra 17) and Charlie Buckingham (Laser) qualified after world championships competition concluded in Australia. The U.S. Olympic roster across all sports is now at 43 qualified athletes.

The closest race for a U.S. Olympic spot came in 49er FX. Roble and Shea edged Paris Henken and 2008 Olympic champion Anna Tobias on a tiebreak. Roble and Shea, both first-time Olympic qualifiers, won Saturday’s medal race and earned an overall bronze medal.

That put the two U.S. duos in a tie in Olympic qualifying — combining placements from the 2019 and 2020 Championships, according to TeamUSA.org. The tiebreak went to Roble and Shea for having the better finish at this year’s worlds.

Tobias, a 37-year-old who won the individual 2008 Olympic Laser Radial as Anna Tunnicliffe, came out of retirement in a bid for a third Olympics. She left competitive sailing in 2014, took up CrossFit competitions and returned to crew for Henken more than two years ago.

“We are very sad and upset,” was posted on Tobias’ Instagram, “but we wish them [Roble and Shea] the best of luck.”

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