2018-01-23 20:00:00 CET
While Talita expects her first baby, Larissa takes some time off and considers retirement
The beach volleyball stork will be busy in the upcoming months as Brazilian star Talita Antunes announced she is pregand will sit out of the 2018 World Tour season just a few weeks after German World and Olympic champ Laura Ludwig also revealed she will miss international competition this year for the same reason.
Talita, 35, is expecting her first baby with her husband, Brazilian beach volleyball coach Renato França. What many might see as an unexpected event is actually the outcome of a well-thought and long-planned decision made by the veteran three-time Olympian, who with Larissa ended 2017 on top of the World Rankings.
“When Larissa and I joined forces we talked about my desire to have a baby,” Talita said in an exclusive interview with beachmajorseries.com.
“The initial plan was that I would try to make it happen after Rio 2016 Olympics, but we decided to postpone it for a year so we could play the 2017 World Championships, which would be a great way to end our cycle together. And I was very lucky that everything happened really fast and just the way I planned.
“I’m very happy. Being a mom was one of my most intense desires and this moment has been magic to me. Everything is new, I experience a different feeling every day and I am really enjoying it.”
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Without her partner, Larissa, who is also 35, decided to take a longer break during the offseason and is still mulling her options for the sequence of her career. She also plans on having a baby and retirement is one of the most likely options considered by the legendary defender.
“I was very happy when I heard from Talita that she was expecting a baby,” Larissa told us. “We had agreed we would keep playing until she was pregnant and that happened really quickly, so I decided to give myself some extra time to relax and think about my future. I also want to be a mom but I didn’t make any plans about it yet. I just resumed my training routine a few days ago and I believe that it will help me to make my mind, but for now I’d say I’m just taking some sabbatical time.”
If Larissa’s future is uncertain, Talita’s is well-marked in the blocker’s mind. A World Tour regular since 2004 and the second female player with more tournaments played having competed in 167 international events, she is adamant she wants to resume her career in the sand courts as soon as possible.
“I’m still training and I plan to keep doing so for as long as I can,” she added. “But I already miss the adrenaline levels of competing. I want to have my baby and enjoy it as much as I can and then get back to training and competing. It’s my first time on this journey and I’m focused on it, so I’m not putting a timetable for my return, but I’m definitely coming back. I’m just taking a break to have my baby but I have space for both dreams at the same time in my life.”
The Brazilian duo have played together for the last two-and-half years, and have dominated the international scene with 16 golds, three silvers and three golds in 36 tournaments played. They have also been a staple in the beach volleyball Major Series, winning five golds, one silver and three bronzes in 12 events.
Their accomplishments as a team include a victory in the 2015 World Tour Finals and topping the World Tour rankings in 2017, their final season together, when they claimed bronze medals in both the World Championships and the World Tour Finals, the last international tournament they competed together, last August.
“These two and half years we had together were amazing,” Larissa commented. “When I decided to get back to the courts in 2014 I knew Talita would be my best choice as I had always admired her both as a player and as a person when we were rivals. It was great becoming closer to her and I think we both learned a lot from each other, which is the best you can hope for in a partnership.”
If Larissa indeed decides to retire, she will walk off the sand courts topping the list of winners of the World Tour, with 62 gold medals collected in the 151 international tournaments she played. She also amassed 23 silver and 20 bronze medals on her 15 seasons competing against the best besides of several individual awards, such as the Most Outstanding Player twice and the best setter selection in impressive ten seasons.
The Cachoeiro de Itapemirim-native is also the player with the most World Tour season titles, having won it eight times – seven with her long-time partner Juliana Felisberta and one with Talita. The distinct resume of the three-time Olympian also includes a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, a gold medal at the 2011World Championships, back-to-back Pan-American titles in 2007 and 2011 and nine Brazilian Tour victories.
“I have not made any decisions yet, but if I opt to quit playing, I can tell that I fell more fulfilled now than when I retired in 2013,” Larissa reflected.
“I have always been respected for my results and the numbers I’ve accomplished, but I feel that people also praise me for the person I am now. This time with Talita gave me the opportunity to show a side of myself that many didn’t know because it was always outshined by my competitive spirit in court.”