Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 23, 2020 – Evandro Goncalves’ first Olympic experience didn’t go exactly as planned. Playing alongside Pedro Solberg, the Brazilian blocker finished ninth in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, at a beach volleyball tournament played in his hometown.
The 29-year-old Evandro is now looking ahead to his second Olympic appearance at the Tokyo Games in the summer of 2021 and his motivation to win gold in the Japanese capital goes well beyond adding to his personal achievements.
Paired with Rio 2016 Olympic champion Bruno Schmidt, Evandro has a special admiration for his partner, one of the winningest players in international beach volleyball in recent years. And his goal is to increase Bruno’s list of accolades in the sport, to help him be the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals on the sand.
“Winning an Olympic gold medal is my dream, but if there’s something I want more than that is to give Bruno his second one,” the 2.10m-tall blocker revealed. “He’s a fantastic player and an ever better human being, so he deserves it more than anyone. I’d say that seeing him winning his second gold medal would make me happier than getting my first one.”
After playing together for just 14 months, Evandro and Bruno have secured good results at the international level, including a win at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 4-star event in Warsaw last June. The world ranking points they amassed in the period encouraged the Brazilian Federation to select the team as one of its representatives at the next Olympics should the country have two spots at the end of the qualification process.
Until then, their main focus is to improve their still young partnership. And the 33-year-old Bruno, a 2015 world champion, has an active role in the process by using his experience to coach Evandro daily during their training sessions at the Leblon beach, in Rio de Janeiro.
“He says all the time he wants to help me to become the best player and the best blocker in the world,” Evandro added. “When I’m training blocking he stands behind me and keeps telling what I’m doing wrong and where I could get better. It’s funny because he says he knows he’s annoying at times and he nearly apologises for that, but I answer that if it will make our team better he can be as annoying as he wants and that I won’t care.”
Evandro has a fair amount of international experience himself, having been on the World Tour since 2011 and having won seven gold medals in the process, including at the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships with Andre Loyola.
According to him, Bruno recognises and appreciates his role in the team, in what he describes as a shared leadership system.
“Even though he’s more experienced than I am, he gives me a lot of autonomy and freedom in our team,” the blocker explained. “He makes me feel very comfortable to make decisions, he encourages me to share my thoughts and he trusts my calls as if they were his own. And that’s not usual coming from a guy that has won everything he did.”
To play with Bruno, however, Evandro had to reshape his game. The blocker moved from his preferred right side to the left to accommodate his new partner, but the most significant change involved his serve, voted as the best in the World Tour in each of the last five seasons.
With all of his three last partners, Evandro would split blocking duties, meaning when he was at the service line he could focus solely on serving as he would be in defence in that play. With the 1.86m-tall Bruno, that system was no longer an option and now he has to handle the entirety of the blocking duties of the team while still being aggressive with his serving.
“Before playing with Bruno, I could focus 100% on serving,” he reflected. “I knew that to play with him that would need to change, but having him as a partner was something I really wanted, so I was willing to do it. I had to make some adjustments and we didn’t have a lot of time as the Olympic qualification process was about to start when we teamed up. I had to work differently with my fitness so I can still serve as hard as I can and run straight to the net during the entire match. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting better at it.”
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