The home of the Brazilian volleyball national teams, the city of Saquarema is set to host an international volleyball event for the first time and the men’s field of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Saquarema Challenge, which will be played from April 13-16, will be a strong one.
Strong men’s field set for Saquarema Challenge
The event held in Brazil will feature 23 Olympians and five Olympic medallists
Published 12:06, 29 Mar 2023
The event, which will be played on the courts set up at the Campo de Aviação, has attracted more than 80 men’s duos, but only the 48 best-ranked ones will get to play in Brazil – with the 16 best starting directly in the main draw and the other 32 beginning to play one day earlier, in the qualifier, where they will fight for eight spots in the main phase of the tournament.
With teams coming from South America, Europe, Asia and the NORCECA region, the Saquarema Challenge will have duos from 23 different countries in contention. The field includes 23 players with Olympic experience and five players who won medals at the Games.
Here are five men’s teams that could have strong performances in Saquarema:
Spanish veterans Pablo Herrera and Adrián Gavira have recently ended their five-year wait for an international gold medal, winning the La Paz Challenge, in Mexico, in March. Partners since 2009, the 40-year-old Herrera and the 35-year-old Gavira remain competitive after nearly 15 years of union and are going strong for their fourth-straight Olympic appearance. Their side out game is one of the strongest on the Beach Pro Tour and that’s one of the things that explains their success over the years. They’re the fourth-seeded team in the Saquarema main draw.
Vitor Felipe/Renato (Brazil)
International beach volleyball journeyman Vitor Felipe, 32, and youngster Renato Lima, 23, were among the sensations of the Beach Pro Tour inaugural season, making an unlikely run to the gold medal match of the FIVB World Championship in Rome. They haven’t been able to replicate that success again after that, having a fourth at last year’s Uberlândia Elite16 as their best result in recent months. The 2023 season hasn’t started very well for the Brazilians either, with a ninth at the Doha Elite16 and a defeat in the qualifier in Tepic, so they need a strong result now and there’s no better place to get it than in front of their home fans. They start the event in the main draw, seeded sixth.
With France being the only country guaranteed a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympics, watching how the men’s French teams perform in their attempt to be selected to represent their nation next year has been really interesting and Youssef Krou, 33, and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat, 26, are quietly building a strong case for themselves. The pair had top-ten finishes in all but two of the 12 Beach Pro Tour events they played since 2022 and generated the country’s biggest success in the period, winning last year’s Torquay Elite16. They were ninth in the La Paz Challenge in their first appearance this year and will play in the Saquarema main draw, seeded eighth.
A two-time age-group world champion, 31-year-old Sergiy Popov has been Ukraine’s most consistent player at the international level for the most part of the last decade. After a three-year period without medals, he returned to the podium in 2022, his first full season with 33-year-old Eduard Reznik. The 2.05m-tall blocker gave Popov the net presence he needed and the team had good success at the Beach Pro Tour last season, earning three silver medals – at the Dubai Challenge and Futures events in Bialystok and Lecce. The Ukrainians will begin in the qualifier in Saquarema, seeded fourth.
A volleyball Olympian with the USA national team, 37-year-old Paul Lotman moved to the sand in 2017 and had mostly been playing domestically until last year. He made his international debut in 2022 and had some promising results, winning bronze with Taylor Crabb at the Dubai Challenge and getting a semifinal appearance at the Torquay Elite16 with Miles Evans. He’s back in the Beach Pro Tour this season with 28-year-old Siila Tucker, who’s in his rookie season. The Americans will have a big mountain to climb in Saquarema, starting the event as 31st-seeded in the 32-team qualifier.