Sunday’s victory for Andre Loyola and George Wanderley at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour four-star event in Itapema, earned with a straight-set (29-27, 21-17) win over fellow Brazilians Vitor Felipe and Renato Andrew in the final, had different meanings for the two athletes and the sport.
While their triumph on the sands of Meia Praia Beach was their first international title as a team, which was formed in 2019, it also represented the last time a duo took its place at the top of the podium of a World Tour tournament as the competition is set to be replaced by the recently-created Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour in 2022.
“I’m really happy. It’s my first victory in such a big event and also the first for us as a team,” the 25-year-old George commented. “We practise with Vitor and Renato every single day in Joao Pessoa and it’s not easy playing against them, but I’m really proud of how we performed. We had some issues in the second semester with injuries and so we feel like we finally got back to our best level."
The two-time defending Brazilian champions, Andre and George took 20 international events to win their first gold together, but they already had one silver and two bronzes as partners entering the tournament. For Andre, a 2017 world champion, however, their triumph marked a return to the top of the podium in Itapema after he won the first World Tour event held in the city, back in 2018, with Evandro Goncalves.
“It’s hard to believe we won it,” Andre reflected. “Itapema has been hosting events on the Brazilian Tour since 2017 and I got to win here in that first year and also in the World Tour in 2018. It was already a special place for me and now it is even more so with my first victory with George. This wasn't an easy year for us and to get to win a World Tour event at the end of it makes us really happy."
Austrians Alexander Huber and Christoph Dressler came out on top of an exciting third-place match against Italian Olympians Alex Ranghieri and Daniele Lupo to win 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 16-14) and take bronze, returning to the podium for the first time since August 2020, when they secured bronze in a one-star tournament in Ljubljana.
Partners since 2018, the Europeans have now won six World Tour medals, two of each type, with the golds coming in two-stars in Siem Reap and Qidong, both in 2019.
“It’s our first medal on the big stage, it really means the world,” Huber, a Rio 2016 Olympian, said. “A lot of people were doubting us, we didn’t get much love. So it feels really good to show what we’re capable of and that we can play. And we would like to thank the fans, they were amazing and even when we were playing against Brazil, they were clapping for good plays. It’s been a lot of fun.”
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour - Itapema
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020