Few countries around the globe have experienced stronger growth on the international beach volleyball scene in the last ten years than Chile. And, significantly, the nation’s rise can be attributed to the efforts of a single team, the one formed by the Grimalt cousins Marco and Esteban.
Since the Grimalts made their FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour debut in 2011, Chile has slowly transitioned from being a peripheral force in the South American region to a consistent medal contender at the international level.
The progress was slow and steady, but the first message was as strong as it gets. Seeded 42nd in the qualifier of their first-ever World Tour event, in Brazil, in 2011, Marco and Esteban upset two-time Olympian Josh Binstock of Canada and his partner Rich VanHuizen to advance to the main draw.
From that result to being the first team in their country to take home World Tour medals with back-to-back silvers in events in Argentina and South Africa, it took over three years. The Grimalts took their ‘firsts’ to another level in 2016, when they became the only beach volleyball players from Chile to ever appear at the Olympics.
In 2018, the 30-year-old Marco and the 29-year-old Esteban made yet another step forward in strengthening their international presence. They topped the podium of a World Tour event for the first time in Japan. The following season was even more prolific for the Chileans, who secured gold medals in Australia and Qatar and also won the Pan-American Games in Peru.
Besides silverware, ten years of competing internationally have also earned the Grimalts many friends around the world. Among them are Spanish veterans Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira, who have established a natural and strong connection with the cousins.
“What makes them so good is that they are fighters, consistent and work hard toward their goals,” Gavira commented. “They’re a little bit like Pablo and me in the sense that they’ve been together for quite some time and the good relationship and the chemistry they have is at times the difference at the top level. It’s not easy to get to that level, and now they benefit from everything they have built as a team.”
By traveling the world to compete in the same events the Chileans do, Gavira has been able to get a first-hand understanding of the impact the cousins have had in Chilean beach volleyball, making the country proud and inspiring young athletes to pursue the same path as them.
“They helped beach volleyball grow a lot in Chile,” Gavira added. “We’re good friends and are always together off the court. It impresses me how everywhere we go to compete they have lots of fans. Chilean people living abroad are always excited and proud of cheering for them in tournaments, and that’s something they earned with their hard work and humbleness. They’re an example for their entire country, two young and hard-working guys who fought to be among the best in the world and to represent Chile at the Olympics.”
Their efforts to push beach volleyball forward in Chile seem to be paying off. The country has steadily managed to improve its international participation, and had two men’s teams in two of the last three editions of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. In 2020, the women also showed signs of progress, winning the country’s first-ever international medal, a bronze claimed by Francisca Rivas and Chris Vorpahl in a 1-star World Tour tournament in Lithuania.
The 2021 season, which includes the Tokyo Olympics, might be another opportunity for the Grimalts to bring smiles to their compatriots, and hopefully attract more aspiring players to the sand.
And they will be ready to perform at their best.
“Our goals are really high and we want to keep checking all the boxes,” Marco reflected. “We want to be at the Olympics again and put Chile in the best place we can. Our qualification for the Rio Olympics helped a lot in the development of beach volleyball in Chile. It stimulated people to play and strengthened the work at youth and junior levels. We hope we are only the tip of the iceberg for this sport in our country.”
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