Seventeen years ago today - on March 21, 2004 - Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil validated their 2003 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship by winning their sixth of a record 33 World Tour gold medals. They topped the podium on home sand in Salvador by defeating Switzerland’s Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel in the final.
The Salvador victory snapped a two-match losing streak to the Swiss as the triumph was No. 20 for Emanuel and Ricardo during a 25-match winning streak for the Brazilians. Heuscher and Kobel had posted victories the season before in Switzerland and Austria in the first two of 14 matches between the two teams.
Five months earlier in October on Rio’s Copacabana beach, Emanuel and Ricardo captured their only World Championship title together by defeating Americans Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger 2-0 (21-18, 21-15) in the October 19 gold medal match.
Five months later in August, Emanuel and Ricardo would meet both teams in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games as the Brazilians defeated Holdren and Metzger to win their pool at the Summer Games. After elimination wins over pairs from Norway and Switzerland, Emanuel and Ricardo defeated Heuscher and Kobel in the Olympic semifinals.
The all-time winningest team in the history of the World Tour with 33 gold medals and 58 podium placements in 100 starts together, Emanuel and Ricardo won nine of their 14 matches with Heuscher and Kobel. Six of the matches were final four meetings with the Brazilians winning four times. The Swiss avenged the Salvador gold medal defeat by upsetting Emanuel and Ricardo for the 2006 Italian Open title in 2006 at Roseto degli Abruzzi.
In playing 11 seasons together on the FIVB circuit (2002-2009, 2014-2016), Emanuel and Ricardo amassed a 478-182 match mark highlighted by four-straight seasons with 70 or more wins for the 2004 (72-13), 2005 (74-15), 2006 (76-14) and 2007 (75-18) campaigns.
Emanuel and Ricardo played in 11 Brazilian FIVB World Tour events with the pair topping five podiums on home sand, playing in six finals and appearing in nine semifinals. Emanuel and Ricardo posted back-to-back wins in Salvador by defeating Marcio Araujo and Fabio Luiz in the October 2005 finale.
The iconic Brazilian pair also won an October 2005 FIVB Satellite event in Buenos Aires and the July 2007 Pan American Games title on Copacabana along with placing third at an American domestic event where Emanuel and Ricardo defeated Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers in pool play. The previous season, Dalhausser and Rogers won the Beijing Olympics where Emanuel and Ricardo placed third after losing in the semifinals to compatriots Marcio Araujo and Fabio Luiz Magalhaes.
The other FIVB World Tour win during the March 21-27 time period was in 2019 when Christoph Dressler and Alexander Huber of Austria won the Anchor Beach Volleyball Carnival on March 24 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was the first of two wins that season for the Austrians, who also topped a July podium in Qidong, China.
Dutchman Robert Meeuwsen and American Kevin Wong are two of six beach volleyball Olympians celebrating birthdays this week in World Tour history. Both players rejoicing today, Wong turns 42 and Meeuwsen is now 33.
Still competing together on the FIVB World Tour, Meeuwsen and Alexander Brouwer captured the 2013 FIVB World Championships in Poland by defeating Alvaro Filho and Ricardo in the finals. The Dutch pair have won five more World Tour gold medals and claimed the bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Summer Games.
Wong placed fifth in the Sydney 2000 Olympics with Rob Heidger as the pair was eliminated by compatriots and eventual Bondi beach gold medal winners Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana in the quarterfinals. An Olympic beach volleyball announcer for NBC in the United States, Wong also captured two World Tour gold medals with Metzger including the inaugural title in Gstaad, Switzerland.
Other Olympians celebrating birthdays are Sydney 2000 participant Martina Hudcova (turning 55 Friday) of the Czech Republic, and Rio 2016 competitors Nivaldo Diaz (27 Wednesday) of Cuba, Pedro Solberg (35 Saturday) of Brazil and Brooke Sweat of the United States (35 Saturday). Hudcova and Sweat placed 19th in their Olympic appearances with Tereza Tobiasova and Lauren Fendrick, respectively.
At the Rio Summer Games, Diaz and Sergio Gonzalez placed fifth where the Cubans were eliminated in the quarterfinals in three sets by Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov of Russia. In their first Rio match, Diaz and Gonzalez posted a 2-1 (24-22, 21-23, 15-13) pool play victory over Solberg and Evandro Goncalves.
Solberg and Goncalves rebounded from two Rio group setbacks to advance to the elimination rounds by posting a three-set pool win over Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia 2-1 (21-16, 20-22, 15-7). The Brazilians placed ninth on Copacabana after losing 2-1 (16-21, 21-14, 15-10) to Dmitri Barsouk and Nikita Liamin of Russia.