Only three training sessions together were enough to set Talita Antunes and Thamela Coradello up for their first victory as partners on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour as the Brazilians took gold at the Elite16 event held in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday.
Talita and Thamela win gold in fairy-tale team debut
Playing together for the first time, the Brazilians top the podium at the Cape Town Elite16
Published 02:36, 06 Nov 2022
The new duo from Brazil completed a fantastic first tournament as partners with a 2-0 (22-20, 21-16) victory over Americans Sarah Sponcil and Terese Cannon in the gold medal match at the Grand Parade. Fellow Brazilians and world champions Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos won bronze.
Talita and Thamela started the 2022 Beach Pro Tour season with different partners but decided to join forces last week after Talita split with former teammate Rebecca Cavalcanti and Thamela saw partner Elize Maia sustain a knee injury.
The 40-year-old Talita and the 22-year-old Thamela developed immediate chemistry and used their split-blocking strategy to thrive in South Africa. The two dropped only one of their six matches in Cape Town to win the tournament.
“I want to thank the fans that came to support us, Talita and Renato (França), our coach, and our entire team,” Thamela said after the gold medal match. “I wouldn’t be here without my family either – they’ve supported me the entire time. I lost a dear friend last week and wanted to offer this victory to him.”
If the victory in Cape Town was just the second in Thamela’s career – she had won an FIVB World Tour event in Prague with Elize Maia in 2021 - it marked the 36th time the legendary Talita stepped on to the top of a podium at an international event.
The three-time Olympian, who has appeared in a record 193 international events since she started competing overseas in 2002, has now won gold with five different partners and medals with six teammates.
“I’m so happy to be here,” she reacted. “I have no words. I’ve played in a lot of finals, but this one is special as it’s my first time with Thamela. She is young, but she played so well this week and was an excellent partner, supporting me the entire time. These last few days weren’t easy, but when you work hard, you can accomplish your goals.”
The Brazilians won the first two points of the gold medal match but the Americans quickly took the lead at 5-4 with a smart bump play from Sponcil. The South Americans fought back and headed to the technical timeout ahead at 11-10, following a strong transition play from Thamela. A good defensive run from the Americans forced an error from Talita, and Cannon and Sponcil seemed to have taken control of the set at 15-13, but a pair of good plays on the Brazilian side tied the score at 16 points. In the end, Talita and Thamela scored back-to-back points to win the first set 22-20.
The Brazilians carried the good momentum into the start of the second set and, after an ace from Thamela and an error from Cannon, jumped ahead at 5-2. Talita and Thamela continued in rhythm and carried a 12-9 lead heading into the technical timeout. The Brazilian advantage increased to five points when Sponcil hit out at 16-11. The Americans had a good run and cut the lead to two points at 17-15 with a transition point from Cannon, but Thamela scored two in a row to regain control. The 21-16 second set victory was then confirmed with a kill from Talita.
In the bronze medal match, world champions Duda and Ana Patricia topped French pair Lézana Placette and Alexia Richard in straight sets (21-15, 21-15) to secure their fourth medal on the 2022 Beach Pro Tour. The Brazilians have made it to the podium in the last five tournaments they have played, including the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship.
“It was our first time here in Cape Town and we were very focused to adjust to the conditions as quickly as possible,” Duda commented. “We worked hard every match and remained together the entire time. That’s what brought us to the podium this time.”
From Cape Town, the Beach Pro Tour heads to Brazil, with Uberlandia hosting another Elite16 tournament next week, from November 9-13.