2018-04-14 12:00:00 CEST

Duda 2.0

The Brazilian rising star has left her family home to pursue her beach volleyball dream…but she’s doing all right

Agatha's mentorship has helped Duda to mature over the last year Agatha's mentorship has helped Duda to mature over the last year

If you ask any beach volleyball player, they will tell you that one of the best aspects of their profession is the possibility of living in the same city of their families and friends. But that’s not always the case.

Oftentimes, players are forced to move to different locations to get access to superior training facilities, to enjoy the opportunity of working with a distinct coach or to start a new partnership. For Brazilian rising star Duda Lisboa, it was all of the above.

At the end of 2016, a year in which she had won both the Under-19 and the Under-21 World Championships besides of two World tour tournaments, Duda got a call from Agatha Bednarczuk, who had recently won the silver medal at Rio Olympics with Barbara Seixas.

Her offer was tempting - she wanted Duda to be her partner for the next Olympic cycle, the one leading to the 2020 Tokyo Games. The bid became even more interesting when she mentioned that veteran coach Letícia Pessoa, a three-time Olympic silver medalist, would be working with the team.

The tough part of the deal? At the age of 18, Duda would have to leave her parents’ house in her hometown of São Cristovão, in the northeast of the country, and move by herself to Rio de Janeiro - some 2,000km away.

“My mom had always been my coach so I had never thought I would have to leave my city,” Duda told us. “But then Agatha called and it was a great opportunity, one that I couldn’t miss, so we talked and I decided to go. It was time to open the doors for a change and explore something new.”

But it wasn’t an easy move. Born and raised in the small São Cristovão, the fourth-oldest city of Brazil with a population under 90,000 people, Duda would leave her parents’ house for one of the world’s biggest metropoles, one that had just hosted the Olympics a few months earlier.

Her routine was severely impacted as well, with her daily training sessions in a sand court built by her mother, former beach volleyball player Cida Lisboa, in the backyard of a gym she owned being replaced by an entirely new and professional infrastructure led by Letícia.

Fim de treino aqui em São Cristóvão. Bom final de semana para todos. Vamos nessa. 😊😊😊

598 Likes, 5 Comments - Duda Lisboa (@santoslisboaduda) on Instagram: "Fim de treino aqui em São Cristóvão. Bom final de semana para todos. Vamos nessa. 😊😊😊"

The only child of Cida and her husband Antonio, Duda thought she was ready for the move as she already had to manage a distance relationship with her boyfriend, Felipe, who lives in the south of the country, but being separated from her parents and having to deal with the daily responsibilities of her new life was challenging in the beginning.

“It was very hard at first leaving my family behind,” she says. “I missed them so much. I’ve spent my entire life with them and it’s tough for us to be separated. I cried a lot in the first weeks. I tried my best to not think too much about it, but it was hard.”

“My mom was with me for the first two weeks, but when she left it was a blow. Not having her around was a new experience and it scared me. I had to do everything by myself and it was tough. It was a huge change for me, one that made me an adult very quickly.”

Família a base de tudo. Amo todos vocês, já estou com saudades. ❤️❤️

796 Likes, 8 Comments - Duda Lisboa (@santoslisboaduda) on Instagram: "Família a base de tudo. Amo todos vocês, já estou com saudades. ❤️❤️"

If Duda was friends with pretty much everybody in São Cristovão, it was a different story in Rio, with her new team being the only familiar faces around. They had a very important role on her adjustment to the city by the way, with Letícia driving her to training every morning and other staff members helping her to settle.

Statistician Lucas Palermo, who already worked with Duda and Cida in São Cristovão and also moved to Rio to be part of the new team, played a pivotal role by sharing an apartment with her in Barra da Tijuca, near their training facility.

“He is my guardian angel,” Duda added. “He’s my best friend and we are always together. But the entire team has been very supportive. Agatha has been through the same as she also moved to Rio at a very young age to play with Sandra Pires (the 1996 Olympic champion), so they knew it would be tough for me and that I would need some time to adjust. They understood the moment I was going through and did all they could to help me settling.”

#Repost @lucaspalermovp with @repostapp ・・・ "A amizade duplica nossas alegrias e divide nossas tristezas."

371 Likes, 5 Comments - Duda Lisboa (@santoslisboaduda) on Instagram: "#Repost @lucaspalermovp with @repostapp ・・・ "A amizade duplica nossas alegrias e divide nossas..."

And after 15 months in Rio, Duda is finally settled. She now rides her bike every day to the training sessions and is much more comfortable enjoying all the city has to offer during her time off. The initial struggles made her grow, but now she feels at home in Rio.

“I’m an entirely new person now,” she smiles. “The spoiled girl I used to be is gone and now I’m someone who knows and understands how the real world is. Rio is huge, so I had to learn it one way or the other. I matured a lot over the last year. The beginning was hard, but I feel much better now. I’m enjoying Rio a lot and I feel adapted already.”

But the changes outside the court didn’t come alone. The new team has put her in a new situation also inside them as Agatha and her had a promising first season together, with silver medals in the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major and in the World Tour Finals as the highlights.

It was a lot of changes for Duda to process, but she will take it.

“I’m very happy about everything that came with this change in my life,” she says. “A lot of things which were not part of my world now are, such as playing frequently in the World Tour and being among the best. That’s great for me, especially being so young. Agatha and Leticia know what it takes to make it to the Olympics and it has been amazing to work with them.”

But there’s still something Duda misses from São Cristovão, besides of her family and friends.

“Black beans, for sure. I can’t cook black beans and I love it. Every time my mom comes to visit me, she cooks tons of black beans and I freeze it so it lasts longer.”

Good for you, Duda!

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