As the clock ticks down toward the first FIVB Beach Major Series event of the 2018 season, VolleyMob is checking in with some of the favorites and last year’s podium finishers to get their thoughts on the Fort Lauderdale Major set for Feb. 27 to March 4 as well as the rest of the upcoming season.
In this edition, we sat down last year’s event gold medalists Alvaro Filho and Saymon Barbosa of Brazil to discuss all things volleyball, including their memories of Fort Lauderdale, the American crowd and their goals for 2018 and beyond.
The pair has a unique task ahead of them this year, starting the event in the qualifiying round despite last year’s title victory over countrymen Evandro/Andre.
What are your memories of winning gold at last year’s Fort Lauderdale Major tournament?
Alvaro: “My memories are the best possible. We actually started the tournament playing the country-quota, still in Brazil, and every match since the first one was very intense for us. I want to have this same feeling in 2018.”
Saymon: “Remembering that tournament makes me very happy, it’s actually hard to describe. The city hosted the event amazingly and the fans were unbelievable. Winning that tournament was remarkable for us. It showed that our work has been well done and that we could achieve much more.”
What is the environment like playing in the United States, especially at the Fort Lauderdale major?
Alvaro: “I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the fans. They actually surprised me. There were several Brazilians in the stands supporting us and we felt as if we were playing at home. And the weather was great too.”
Saymon: “The energy in the Red Bull Arena was fantastic. The fans were super excited, they were making a lot of noise and willing to see a great spectacle from us. It was really motivating to play for them. And there was a big Brazilian fan base there, which was great for us.”
Does starting in the qualifying round of the Fort Lauderdale Major make it in extra challenge for you to try to repeat as champions?
Alvaro: “The World Tour is always very difficult, regardless if it’s the qualification tournament or the main draw. The best teams in the world will be there and if we want to win we’ll have to approach every match the same way and play at our best.”
Saymon: “It’s an extra challenge, for sure. We wanted to start in the main draw, but competing in the qualification tournament won’t disrupt us. It only shows that we always need to work hard to achieve our goals.”
How has the addition of the Beach Major Series and the star ratings system for tournaments changed the beach volleyball competition stage?
Alvaro: “I think it’s a very interesting system as it separates the tournaments in different levels and sets the Major Series with all of its greatness apart.”
Saymon: “I like the new system. I think it allows the top teams to be a little more selective about the tournaments they are going to play, which leads to better planning. But there are so many tournaments now and there is plenty of opportunity for new players, which I believe is very good.”
As you begin another season, what do you hope to do better than last year? What did you work on in the offseason? How much better are you individually and as a pair in 2018?
Alvaro: “I think that compared to last year we would like to be more stable as a team. If we can play at the level we played last year, but manage to be more consistent, it will be an important step for us.”
Saymon: “Personally, I am looking forward to have more fun. I enjoy a lot when I’m playing and I want everyone around me to feel the same way. Inside the court, I believe we’ll show more chemistry and more focus. We worked hard on preseason and are ready to show our game and our excitement.”
What are your goals for the 2018 season?
Alvaro: “I think our main goal as a team is to be more consistent. We want to have better results than we did last year and solidify ourselves as one of the best teams in the world in our second international season as a team.”
Saymon: “Our first goal is to return to the main draw in the next tournaments. We want to have good results and to accumulate enough points to compete in the World Championships in 2019 and to put ourselves in a good position when the Olympic race starts.”
Is Tokyo 2020 on your mind or are you simply focused on this year and each tournament?
Alvaro: “I believe the Olympic Games are always in the minds of every athlete. It’s the highest dream we all have. To be in Tokyo and hopefully win a medal is a big dream and a goal we want to achieve.”
Saymon: “Tokyo 2020 is a big part of our goals since we started playing together. It’s an old dream for both of us and one that we are working hard to accomplish.”