Fabiana celebrates a point in her first match with Osasco (Photo: Osasco)

Star middle blocker Fabiana Claudino enjoyed a remarkable return to the courts as the 36-year-old Brazilian helped her new team, Osasco Sao Cristovao Saude, secure an early lead in the semifinal series of the Sao Paulo State Championship on Tuesday.

A two-time Olympic champion (Beijing 2008 and London 2012), Fabiana scored nine points in Osasco’s straight-set (25-21, 25-17, 25-20) victory over Pinheiros at the Jose Liberatti stadium, in Osasco.

Fabiana had last played a match in January 2020, when she helped Hisamitsu Springs finish seventh in the Japanese League. A four-time Olympian, the middle blocker paused her career later that year to become a mother and gave birth to her first son, Asaf, in April 2021.

“I’m really happy and out of words,” she said. “It’s the first time I was away from the courts for so long and to be able to return, it means a lot. I know I’m not even close to my best yet, but nothing beats the satisfaction of being back on the court. And having our fans back at the stadium made it even more special. I love feeling their energy and it was wonderful.”

For her return, the legendary middle blocker, who captained Brazil for most of the last decade, signed with Osasco, her sixth different club in her home country. She joins fellow former national team members Camila Brait (libero) and Josefa Fabiola (setter) at the club.

Fabiana, however, wasn’t the only new face Osasco showcased to their fans in the match against Pinheiros. American middle blocker Rachael Adams also played her first match for the club. A Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist and a 2014 world champion, the 31-year-old Adams also missed most of last season, in her case due to a knee injury. She scored seven points in her first match with Osasco.

“It was an amazing night, not only for myself, but also for my teammates and the fans at the stadium,” Adams commented. “It was a great first match and I’m incredibly happy.”

The victory gave Osasco an advantage in the best-of-three series against Pinheiros. The second match will be played on Friday. The other semifinal series reunites Sesi Volei Bauru and Barueri and starts on Wednesday.