Joao Pessoa, Brazil, August 19, 2020 - As a newlywed, world champion Brazilian player Andre Loyola Stein will spend his 26th birthday today on the beach training in preparation for the return to action on the domestic tour in September.
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
“Since my birthday will be in the middle of the week, it will be a normal day, with training and everything else," said André, who captured the gold medal with Evandro Goncalves at the 2017 FIVB World Championships in Vienna. "Since I live here now with my wife, we will probably have a nice dinner to celebrate it. And hopefully during the weekend we can celebrate with George’s family as they are all from here.”
The "George" is the 23-year old Wanderley as Andre partnered with the two-time junior FIVB world champion in late April last year. The duo has played in 14 World Tour events together with a 39-24 match mark highlighted by podium placing performances at events in China (bronze Jinjiang) and Portugal (silver in Espinho).
"George and I had a good year in 2019 and our short-term goal was to remain on a good spot in the World Tour," said Andre, who played in his first FIVB event in 2014 when he and Vinicius Rezende placed fifth at the Under-21 World Championships in Larnaka, Cyprus.
Although disappointed about not qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, Andre and George are shooting for the Paris 2024 Summer Games. "As a team, George and I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for Tokyo qualifying," said Andre. "We believed we could qualify, that was our goal and unfortunately we didn’t make it."
Andre said "the focus is now on Paris but taking it one step at a time. We need to keep improving and that’s what will take us to Paris and hopefully, if all goes well, we can be in Los Angeles too. We’re both young, George especially, and in theory we should be able to make a run for the Los Angeles Games too, but we know that the work we do now is what will put us in a position to accomplish that goal.”
Over the last few months, Andre said he has "spent most of the time with my wife at our apartment.” He and his wife (Maria Vitoria) were married on December 14 in his hometown of Vila Velha, which is located nearly 2,000 km (1,220 miles) south of Joao Pessoa.
“We moved to Joao Pessoa in January, so everything is still a little new for us here,” he added. “George’s family lives nearby so we get to meet them during the weekends every once in a while. I was working out at home with some weights we borrowed from a local gym and doing some rehab, stretching and preventive work. In June I went to visit my family in Vila Velha and spent three weeks with them there. I returned at the end of July, when we were allowed to practice again here in Joao Pessoa.”
Andre said he and George are “working with our coaching staff watching film online three times a week. I think we got to watch nearly every match we played together and studied most of our opponents. It was a way to use the time we had on our hands in the best possible way. I tried to rest and work with our psychologist too, but also wanted to spend time with my wife as this is a routine that’s not typical for a beach volleyball player.”
Asked about missing traveling and competing on the World Tour, he said "The pandemic canceled all the events we were supposed to play overseas this year. We only got to compete internationally in an event of the South American Tour. We are used to having this busy traveling routine and to spend a lot of time away from home, especially during the Northern Hemisphere summer. I typically spend my birthday in a tournament, and I miss being on the road playing, visiting new countries and getting to know different cultures, but at the same time this break was nice to spend more time at home and rest. But now I hope we can return to the World Tour as soon as possible.”
As for staying in shape, Loyola said "we got some equipment from a CrossFit box and we could continue working out as much as possible at home using a bar and our body weight. We did a lot of stretching and mobility drills. I live in an apartment building, so I did a lot of walking on the stairs to keep the cardio going. We were fortunate that George had a sand court at his house, so we managed to get together a few times to play and keep our touch, but we also did some individual drills at home.”
In reflecting on his gold medal effort at the 2017 World Championships, Andre said “it was for sure the most important victory of my career. The matches that I have the best memories of are the ones in the elimination round. I remember matches were getting tougher at each round and ones that stood out were our comebacks against the Latvians and Canadians."
After advancing from the Vienna 2017 pool play with a 2-1 record, Loyola and Evandro won their next matches by defeating Latvians Martins Plavins/Haralds Regza and Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins in two sets and Canadians Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk in three sets.
After defeating 45th-seeded Dutchmen Maarten Van Garderen and Christiaan Varenhorst in the semifinals, the fourth-seeded Loyola and Evandro posted a 2-0 (23-21, 22-20) gold medal win in 57 minutes over 12th-seeded Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst in the finals where more than 8,000 Austrians were pushing their compatriots to their country's best-ever finish in the World Championships.
"The final against the Austrians was also a most memorable match," said Andre. "That run Evandro had with his serves when we were down 17-20 in the first set completely changed the match."
When asked about the person responsible for his beach volleyball success, Andre said “Leandro Brachola was the one who saw I had the potential to be a good beach volleyball player. He got me involved with the sport and helped me with a college scholarship when I started playing. He provided all the support I needed, worked hard to develop my skills and trusted me to train with some of the best players in the world like Alison (Cerutti), Bruno Schmidt and Fabio Luiz (Magalhaes). All three are Olympic medallists and world champions. All three were all coached by him, right from the beginning. He was the one who got me started and he had a pivotal role in every decision I made regarding partnerships and all. He’s someone I trust immensely and he’s the main person responsible for everything I’ve accomplished.”
As for idols in the sport, Andre said “when I first started playing beach I was coming from indoor, so I didn’t know a lot of the athletes or the sport in general. As an indoor volleyball player, I was inspired by (Brazil’s outside hitter) Dante Amaral. On the beach, I think my entire generation looked up to Ricardo (Santos) and Emanuel (Rego) for everything they did. In my state of Espirito Santo, we had great beach players Alison and Fabio Luiz. As a blocker, I tried to get as much information as I could from them and to get to train with and just have them around when I started was massive.”
In answering his final questions about the toughest World Tour opponents, Loyola said “the other Brazilian teams. We know each other very well because we play all the time in the Brazilian Tour and sometimes we’re playing against a former partner, so it makes those matches more difficult. We know each other’s tendencies and there are several teams basically at the same level, so the difference is always in the details. We’re always competing for Olympic qualification or even a main draw spot, so there’s a big mental factor involved too.”