You almost don’t want to say it, just in case there is some sort of cosmic karma, prepared to jinx Bruno Oscar Schmidt. But when you watch him play, be it on the livestream or in the midst of the packed stands at the Gstaad Elite16, you just can’t help but to at least whisper it, perhaps out loud, maybe just to yourself: He’s back.
Bruno Schmidt looking like the 2016 Bruno of old, into the Gstaad semifinals with Saymon Barbosa
Bruno Schmidt, after a brutal, pain-filled three years, is looking fully healthy again after recovering from knee surgery
Published 04:09, 09 Jul 2022
Bruno Schmidt is back.
Even he can’t fully believe it just yet. Here he is, less than a year post surgery, less than a year after one of the most difficult Olympic quads of his sensational career, in the semifinals of Gstaad, with 28-year-old Saymon Barbosa. He’s playing not like the shell of himself that the world bore witness to the last three years, when he was hobbled with injuries and COVID and then, impossibly, more injuries. The Bruno we are currently seeing is the Bruno the beach volleyball world came to know and love and admire and watch with wonder, as the Magician did things only the Magician could do.
“It’s been a long time. It’s been a while,” Schmidt said when asked the last time he had this much fun on the volleyball court. “The last three years for me was terrible. So painful for me, all the time. So painful. I thought I could recover from the surgery, but I needed to stop for a while, and I learned that there is something way worse than losing: when you have an injury.”
There is no injury anymore. The knee surgery went well, and Bruno is still not ready to admit that he’s 100 per cent healthy just yet.
“Every month for me is like a year,” Bruno said. “I need time. I thought I could recover as fast as possible. But this injury: You need time. It’s not six months. You need at least one year. Get your confidence again. Every month for me, I’m feeling stronger, I’m feeling more confident without pain, trusting my new knee.”
It’s a bit scary, really, to think that Bruno and Saymon are in the semifinals of the largest Elite16 of the season – and he doesn’t yet trust his new knee, doesn’t yet feel 100 per cent, doesn’t yet feel like the full Bruno of old. He is looking very much the part, though. Bruno and Saymon have logged wins over Paul Burnett and Chris McHugh, Sam Cottafava and Paolo Nicolai, Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan, and a white-hot young German team in Robin Sowa and Lukas Pfretzschner. Now he finds himself in the semifinals, where he has been so many times before.
Gstaad has been a remarkably successful venue for Bruno. He won silver in 2013 with Pedro Solberg, silver again the next year with Alison, gold the following year, and claimed bronze in 2019 with Evandro. Now with Saymon, he’s hunting for another medal, in their first semifinal of the 2022 season.
“We’re being very patient and respectful with each other,” Saymon said. “We haven’t been training together for a long time and I feel like our chemistry is getting better every day. We’ve been very detail-oriented every time we get on the court and I feel like that’s making a positive difference for us.”
They find themselves joined in the semifinals by the Czech Republic’s David Schweiner and Ondrej Perusic, Marco and Esteban Grimalt, and Steven van de Velde and Christiaan Varenhorst.
Bruno and Saymon are not the only Brazilians remaining, however. On the women’s side, Duda and Ana Patricia, the defending World Champs, will meet Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in yet another thunderous quarterfinal. Barbara and Carol will play Germany’s Karla Borger and Julia Sude, who knocked out Americans Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft.
Sophie Bukovec and Brandie Wilkerson, the silver medallists at the World Championships, might be playing even better than they did in Rome, winning pool, then beating Victoria Lopes and Taina Silva, 22-20, 21-12. They will play Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy in the quarterfinals.
“We are looking forward to it so much,” Bruno said of the opportunity to win a medal. “I stopped for surgery, the process was so hard. I thought it was going to be easy but it’s way harder. Every month for me counted like a year. The thing is, Saymon is so motivated, he listens to me a lot. He wants to prove to everybody that he’s not a kid who just has fun. He wants a medal. He wants the top. I think mainly, the best thing for us is just to try to do our best.”