2019-05-07 16:19:00 CET

Adrian Carambula’s back in the big time

It’s been a long road back for Mr Skyball – and with a new teammate he’s making up for lost time…

Adrian and Enrico Rossi celebrate their silver medal in Sydney - won in their first FIVB World Tour event togetherAdrian and Enrico Rossi celebrate their silver medal in Sydney - won in their first FIVB World Tour event together

Adrian Carambula is back. And this time he really is.

What’s more, the Italian is happy, loving life and enjoying beach volleyball.

It’s how things should be.

The smiles that radiate from his face are a far cry from an 18-month period in which the 2016 Olympian was thinking of giving up the beach altogether.

Having gone separate ways with Alex Ranghieri at the back end of the 2017 campaign, the defender’s pursuit of a new partner threatened a comeback, only to be hit back by dead ends and then a rookie player not quite ready yet to deal with the cut-throat world of the FIVB World Tour.

Worst still, last season the 31-year-old did not earn a single dime playing beach volleyball. “Thank god for my savings,” he laughs.

But for a man whose fame in the game came with a little help from his crowd pleasing skyball serve – yes, that guy with cheeky grin and the confidence you’d associate with a beach volleyball pro – scratching around in qualification and contemplating ending his career is really not how things should be.

Thankfully, things changed. Things got better. Adrian Carambula is back. And you better believe it.

“Let’s just say it’s great – but for a year it felt like life was taking the sport away from me,” Carambula explains to “To be able to be back and playing at a high level is fun.”

Adrian and new teammate Enrico Rossi (left) have also finished fourth in the four-star tournament in XiamenAdrian and new teammate Enrico Rossi (left) have also finished fourth in the four-star tournament in Xiamen

Fun is one way of putting it. Since joining forces with 25-year-old Enrico Rossi, a blocker who enjoyed a break-out season playing with Marco Caminati last year, Carambula has played in four World Tour tournaments in 2019 and already finished second, fourth and ninth in three of those.

Those eye-catching results, and that silver medal, however, seemed a million miles away this time 12 months ago.

“Yeah I felt like giving up. I was barely playing. The Italian federation were no longer investing in me, I wasn’t playing well, wasn’t earning money, had no sponsors. It was financially tough, you think ‘how long can I do this?’

“Beach volleyball is my life. It hit a chord when reading Phil Dalhausser’s story about realizing his purpose in life. Beach volleyball was my purpose. Knowing that kept me strong. There was no way I was just going to give up.”

Now with Enrico at his side on the sand, and with the support, dedication and enthusiasm of new coach Marco Solustri and trust and encouragement from trainer and friend Ennio Varvaro, Carambula’s world is all of a sudden looking a whole lot happier.

So much was the confidence and determination to right the wrongs of the past two seasons, Adrian and Enrico battled through to qualify for the three-star event in Sydney, their first event together, and went all the way to the final, finishing a silver medal.

Mr Skyball has his swagger back. Adrian, who won a bronze medal in the first ever Beach Major Series event in Poreč back in 2015, is unequivocal in his belief that he’s found, and is now playing with, a partner that is bringing out the best in him.

“The cool thing is Enrico and I are so different to each other that we’re perfect for each other; personally and our style of play. The way we communicate with each other in practice, in games. One of us will suggest something and the other will be ‘okay, well how about we try this?’

“The communication and the respect we have for each other is our biggest strength. We have a good leader in Marco. He’s given us an identity. These values are important to me. The results help for sure, but it’s the nature of our team that is the most crucial.

“Beach volleyball is my life and as I have said, life seemed to be taking the sport away from me. The things that have happened in the past have allowed me to show my character, to keep fighting and to gain a mental and physical toughness and confidence. Everything that has happened, happened for a reason and I’m stronger for it.

“To get back on that podium in Sydney was great. Of course, life goes on when once step off it, you’re on to your next tournament and we lost in the quali in Doha straight after.

“But Sydney was big but not just because of the medal. It was huge to just be back playing on the court, looking at opponents in the eye, feeling it, smelling it, knowing they are thinking ‘I’m playing Carambula here’. I need that edge, and that’s what makes playing with Enrico such a good fit. Honestly, it took us two weeks to feel as though we could compete with the big dogs.

“Whether it’s one mistake, or 100 mistakes, I know Enrico’s reaction will always be the same: ‘let’s get on with it’. I need that. I need to block out the negative things and be able to play on my instincts. I’ve heard players in the lobby of hotels saying ‘Mr Skyball’s back!’ and smiling with a certain look. I know what that means and it makes me feel as though I’m back. It’s such great feeling.”

Adrian won a bronze medal in the first Beach Major Series event and represented Italy in the 2016 World Tour Finals in TorontoAdrian won a bronze medal in the first Beach Major Series event and represented Italy in the 2016 World Tour Finals in Toronto

The heartbreak of missing out on this year’s World Championships in Hamburg – unless there’s, in his words, a “miracle” of a wildcard – is tempered by the fact there’s an even bigger incentive on the horizon in 2020: the Olympics in Tokyo.

Results in these early stages of the partnership have already been hugely encouraging. On closer inspection the fourth place achieved in Xiamen was terrific given the class of opposition the pair put to the sword. World top 10 teams from Poland Kantor/Losiak and Bryl/Fijalek plus young German stars Thole/Wickler were seen off. And then, for good measure, Adrian and Enrico added reigning World Champ André Loyola and George Wanderely to their list of high-profile victims. Carry on in the same kind of vein and Tokyo could be a distinct possibility.

If these exploits aren’t proof that Adrian Carambula is back in the big time and back where he belongs, then we don’t know what is.

And while that World Championship dream has come three or four tournaments too soon, don’t worry: he and Enrico will in Gstaad and Vienna, where you’ll see that trademark shot, smile and swagger.

And when you do, you’ll smile back and think to yourself: this guy is what beach volleyball is all about.

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