Lausanne, Switzerland, October 15, 2020 – Brazilian star Sheilla Castro is about to start a new chapter in her long and storied career as the two-time Olympic champion has announced she will compete in the recently-created Athletes Unlimited Volleyball League in the United States in 2021.
The 37-year-old opposite returned to the courts a year ago after giving birth to twins Liz and Ninna at the end of 2018. The veteran, who hadn’t played since the Rio 2016 Olympics, spent last season with Itambe Minas in Brazil and helped the team win the South American Club Championship and finish fifth at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship.
Sheilla has had successful stints in Brazil, Italy and Turkey, and the legendary Brazilian opposite found motivation in the challenge of helping establish the new league in the United States.
“I think it would be massive for players and fans if a professional league were established in the United States and I definitely want to be a part of it and to help make it happen,” Sheilla explained. “When I first heard of their interest, I was determined I wanted to stay with Minas for another year, but when I got to talk to them about it and really understood their ideas and projects, it really attracted me.”
Sheilla spent the last club season in Brazil with Itambe Minas
A U-21 world champion in 2001, Sheilla has been a key player for the Brazilian national team since 2002. She appeared in three editions of the Olympics, winning gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, and has also helped the South Americans triumph in several other international tournaments, including seven editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and two editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup.
Her move to the United States, she expects, will put her in a good position to compete for a spot in the Brazilian national team roster for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the driving force of her decision to return to the sport.
For that, however, the Brazilian will need to adapt to the specifics of the league, which will be played from February 26 to April 4 in Nashville, Tennessee. The tournament’s format will feature 44 players forming new teams every weekend and earning points based on team wins and individual performances. At the end, one athlete will be crowned champion, not a team.
“To me the most interesting thing is that this format will demand a lot from us individually,” she added. “Unlike in a normal setting, where you have a support system in your team to help when you’re not having a good day, in this league everyone will need to bring their 100 per cent every match. I like this challenge and after talking with Jose Roberto Guimaraes (Brazil’s women’s national team head coach) we agreed that it would be the right situation for me at this moment. My trajectory with the national team didn't end in the way I wanted at the Rio 2016 Games and I'll do everything in my power to be in Tokyo."
The Brazilian star celebrates her second Olympic gold medal at the London 2012 Games
Other international volleyball stars are already confirmed in the league, including Americans Jordan Larson and Karsta Lowe and Puerto Rican Aurea Cruz.