2018-04-17 10:00:00 CET
For these Brazilians, beach volleyball is definitely a family business
Traveling the entire world to play beach volleyball is awesome. Now imagine doing it and having your siblings and your mother around. That takes the experience to another level, right?
Well, welcome to the life of the Salgados, the most traditional beach volleyball household in Brazil.
The family’s dynasty is currently represented by three players in the World Tour - Rio 2016 Olympian Pedro Solberg and his sisters Carol and Maria Clara. But their history on the sand started over 20 years ago, when their mother, Isabel Salgado, played in the first beach volleyball international tournaments in the early 1990s.
A star in Brazilian indoor volleyball in the 1980s decade, Isabel was one of the pioneers of beach volleyball in the country having played with Olympic champion Jackie Silva in the early days of the sport. Her genetic inheritance was strong enough to have three or her four children following her footsteps in the sands some years later.
“It was funny because my mother signed our older sister, Pilar, for volleyball classes and she hated it,” Maria Clara told us. “Then she enrolled us on every other activity you can imagine, such as guitar classes, ballet, swimming and gymnastics, but the three of us ultimately became beach volleyball players. She knew volleyball had always been an integral part of our lives and that if that was the path we wanted to follow, we’d do it anyway.”
The three of them started playing volleyball pretty much at the same time, when Maria Clara was 13 and Pedro and Carol were around 10, under the vigilant watch of Isabel. As they progressed on their careers, their mother became more and more involved.
Late in her career, Isabel played with both Maria Clara and Carol in the Brazilian Tour. When she retired, the sisters joined forces and had her as their coach for several years. Maria and Carol stayed together from 2003 to 2015, having played 135 World Tour tournaments together during this period.
“We played together for 13 seasons and during most of this time our mother was our coach, so I feel very fortunate,” Maria Clara added. “We started very early and that made us go through several important moments of our lives together. I feel very lucky to have had not only a sister to play with, but also our mother, who taught us so much, to be around us daily and in our trips. It was very special.”
At the same time, Pedro already showed signs of what would be an impressive career, becoming the youngest player to ever be a World Tour champion in 2008 at the age of 22. Isabel managed his career at the time and since then the blocker has shared everything meaningful of his life with her and his sisters – his profession, his training center, his dreams, his trips, his happiness after victories and also his frustrations.
“That’s the best part, for sure,” he commented. “Especially when you lose a match, it’s very good to have someone who will cheer you up. They have helped me several times with that. Very few people have the opportunity work and travel with their families and I’m glad I’m one of them. In the World Tour sometimes we are on the road for several months and you kind of need a break from your partner for a day, so it’s great to have them to hang out with.”
The scenario of perfect union changed a little bit last year, when Maria and Carol returned to the sport after taking a season off to have babies and they decided they would play with different partners. After sharing an entire life, the sisters would have to face each other – but only inside the courts.
As expected, emotions were high when they first met as rivals, in March 2017, in the Brazilian Tour. Carol, playing with Juliana Felisberta, prevailed over Maria Clara and her then-partner Andressa Cavalcanti in what was a grueling experience for both of them.
“The first time was very weird,” Maria recalled. “We had trained together as rivals before the tournament and it was awkward, but when the match started you could feel that the atmosphere was really tense. But I think we already got used to it. We talk a lot about volleyball and share our feelings with each other.”
“I might return to the World Tour this season and that may change things a little bit as we’d be direct opponents. I’m sure I’ll keep my thoughts about my team for myself and she’ll do the same about hers, but nothing will ever stop us from cheering and supporting each other.”
Playing together or not, Maria and Carol are perpetuating a long-lasting tradition among the Salgados. Whenever they can, they take their sons to the tournaments, repeating what their mother did in the past.
Carol is the mother of José (five years old) and Salvador (one), who were with her on last year’s World Championships in Vienna, while Maria, who is married with American player Jeremy Casebeer, has Joaquim (one), who is yet to make his ‘debut’ in the World Tour.
“We traveled a lot with our mother when we were kids and I loved it,” Maria Clara added. “When Carol had José, we were playing together and she would take him to every tournament and it was wonderful. When I got pregnant, I couldn’t wait to resume playing to take Joaquim with me and have the same feeling. And it has been awesome, I enjoy so much having him around even though it’s very demanding, because he’s so active. Hopefully I can keep taking him with me until he starts going to school.”
Is a new Salgado team in the works? Well, that wouldn’t be exactly a surprise, would it?
1,384 Likes, 27 Comments - Carolina Salgado Solberg (@carol_solberg) on Instagram: "❤️❤️❤️❤️"