2017-11-15 09:30:00 CET
From rivals to partners
After playing each other numerous times in a decade, Brazilians Larissa and Talita joined forces to become one of the best teams in the world.
Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes have shared the same side of the court since 2014 – but their relationship on the sand started a lot earlier and in a very different scenario.
As they started playing beach volleyball at the same time, in the early 2000s, the Brazilians spent the first decade of their careers as long-time rivals, competing against each other week in and week out in the National and the FIVB World Tours.
The situation changed in 2014, when Larissa came back from an 18-month retirement period and invited Talita to be her partner. At that moment, after all the years of a fierce rivalry, would be forgotten so they could start a new story, this time together.
“I was used to have her as an opponent and that was the most important thing to me when I decided to play with her,” Talita, 35, tells us. “I knew I had to leave our past behind us for our team to be successful. We were not very close before, but we had a huge respect for each other and that helped us to get our team started”.
For Larissa, also 35, the commitment of both of them to the success of the team has been a key point in their excellent run. The duo have been almost unstoppable on the sand. Their list of achievements includes a World Tour title in 2017, a gold medal in the Swatch Word Tour Finals in 2015, bronze medals in the 2017 Swatch World Championships and World Tour Finals, plus three straight Brazilian titles.
Since 2014, the tandem competed in 36 international tournaments, amassing 16 golds, three silvers and three bronzes.
“It is really important to have a good relationship with your partner both on and off the court since we spend most of the year together,” adds Larissa. “Once I decide to play with someone, I am 100 per cent committed to make things work between us.
“It is vital that we accept and respect each other and that our goals and our dreams are aligned. We knew that having a good relationship would be essential for the success of our team.”
A good display of their commitment was shown when Talita decided to move from Rio de Janeiro, where she lived with her husband, beach volleyball coach Renato França, to Fortaleza to focus on the team’s preparation to Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where Larissa and her finished fourth.
In the new city, Talita was welcomed with open arms by Larissa, her family and her coaching staff, who helped the Aquidauana native adjust to the new environment.
“She basically gave up of her life in Rio and moved to Fortaleza for the success of our team, so the least I could do was to help her to adjust to the new city and to her new routine, regarding both training and her personal life,” explains Larissa.
“It was pretty smooth to be honest. Our coaching staff was also very supportive and we tried to make her feel like home during that time. It got us closer and showed how much each of us was willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the team.”
One of the feelings developed by the pair in their first two years of partnership was the trust of each other. Because of that, the Brazilians managed to remain competitive, despite living in different cities since the end of 2016, when Talita returned to Rio.
The partners now train separately during most of the year and only meet a few days before tournaments, but that does not slow them down.
“The respect and the trust we have in each other was what made our team work even in this situation,” acknowledges Talita. “I know I have to do my best every day in Rio de Janeiro because I am sure Larissa will be doing the same in Fortaleza. It is only possible for us to deal with this situation because our team was mature enough to do so.”
Talita and Larissa might share the same age, but their personalities are very different. While the former is a calm and centered player, the latter is widely known by her energetic spirit inside the court. At this stage of their careers, the mix has proven to be very effective.
“That has made our relationship really fluid and easy,” Talita admits. “We have different personalities, but we share the same visions about pretty much everything and we have the same goals. I knew Larissa was an outstanding athlete and it has been a huge pleasure to know better the amazing person she is.”
The shared goals, though, might separate the Brazilians in 2018 as both of them plan on having their first babies in the upcoming year. Could you ever ask for better chemistry than that?