Linares, Chile, April 29, 2020 – Esteban Grimalt was born to a true volleyball family and has made the sport his life. His relationship with the sport, however, has not always been idyllic.
Members of the Grimalt family have represented Chile in international volleyball for several decades. The son of two former volleyball players, Jaime and Monica, Esteban indicated for a long time that he might be the exception, the one member of the family who wouldn’t play the sport.
“My relationship with volleyball started in kind of a funny way,” Esteban said. “Despite my entire family being connected with volleyball at the highest level in Chile, I didn’t like the sport when I was younger. I was basically anti-volleyball, I preferred playing any other sport and my parents would fully support me in that. They were always watching my soccer and basketball matches. I was so sure that I would never play volleyball at the time that I even made a bet with some friends, which I obviously lost.”
It took a national school tournament held in his hometown Linares, in which his older brother Rafael took part, for him to finally give the sport a chance. And that was the experience that changed his plans completely.
“I was 13 at the time and I really enjoyed the environment,” the 29-year-old player recalled. “The final match was played at a huge stadium with thousands of people in the stands and the team that represented my school won. After the last point, the thing I remember is that I was one of the first people to enter the court to celebrate with my brother, who was one of the best player in the tournament. The next day I enrolled in volleyball classes.”
And that was a key decision which has meant that the Grimalt family will not just continue its tradition in the sport, but ultimately take it to new heights. Paired with cousin Marco, 31, Esteban has gone on to make history in Chilean beach volleyball.
From their first tournament together, a Chilean tour event in Linares in 2006, which they were invited to at the last minute to replace a team that had withdrawn, to their victory at last year’s Pan-American Games, Esteban and Marco have provided their Chilean fans with a whole new range of experiences.
They were the first team to win a South American Tour event in 2009, the first to secure FIVB World Tour gold medals for the country, and the first to take Chilean beach volleyball to the Olympics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The cousins plan to remain active for several years, but when they do decide to leave the courts, they will still be around the sport.
“We haven’t thought deeply about what we want to do when we’re done playing and we plan on being on the courts for several more years, but I’m sure we’ll remain involved with the sport in some capacity,” Esteban added. “Maybe we’ll help promote the sport or support the development of volleyball in Chile. These are some things we’d love to do more now, but we don’t have the time.”