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2015-09-28 16:30:00 CEST

On Top of the World

Brazil has always been a world force in the sport of beach volleyball, but this year they have dominated on a level that can only be described as inspired.

In just two seasons, Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt have risen to the top; shattering expectations and accomplishing what most beach athletes can only dream of - winning five consecutive titles on the FIVB World Tour. On an international tour of skilled athletes and seasoned veterans, that is not only impressive - it’s nearly impossible. Brazil is home to many of the best men’s and women’s beach volleyball athletes the sport has ever seen, so when it comes to wearing the green and gold on the court - stakes are high. There is a certain intimidation factor to competing side-by-side with veterans like Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego, each with 3 Olympic medals (one in every color). The season also started off with an intense points race between fellow country-men Pedro and Evandro. “All our Brazilian teams are so good,” Alison stated in his matter-of-fact tone. “We must play our best to beat them every time.”

Photocredit: Swatch Major SeriesPhotocredit: Swatch Major Series

Looking back on the season, it wasn’t an easy road for this 2nd year Brazilian team. After taking a 17th in the Poreč Major and a 9th in both the Stavanger Major and St. Pete Grand Slam, some had written them off for both Olympic qualification and success on the world tour this year. Some even questioned their partnership. With Alison’s history of winning and a silver medal in his back pocket - was this newer partnering going to pan out? And then, it happened.

“Something changed inside of us at World Champs this season,” said Brazilian defender Bruno Schmidt. “We took all of the pressure on us, and all of the frustration from last season and we used it to take our game to the next level.” In 2014, the duo’s first season together on the world tour, finishes were inconsistent due to nagging injuries that eventually led to Alison getting work done on his knee and the two ending their season early. With pressure to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio in such a short run of events, their early defeats were weighing heavy and mentally wrecking havoc on their game. “After that first title this season in the Hague  - an incredible win for us in the finals, our confidence grew and our vision on each match changed. Alison and I started to play more fluid, more free. We started to have fun - we lived in the moment and things changed for us. We started to win. A lot.”

Photocredit: Swatch Major SeriesPhotocredit: Swatch Major Series

From that point on they burned through the competition winning the next four FIVB World Tour stops at the Gstaad Major, the Yokohama Grand Slam, the Long Beach Grand Slam and the Olsztyn Grand Slam. It’s significant to note that with the win in Olsztyn, Poland, team Alison/Bruno clinched the top 2016 Olympic bid for Brazil. A huge accomplishment in just a few short months. Bruno and Alison attribute much of their success this year to their coaches and support staff who are with them almost every day of the week. “The FIVB World Tour this year has been very difficult,” added Bruno. “Back to back events all over the world. So much travel time and recovery time is needed when we are trying to stay in competing shape. Also we play in the Brazilian pro tour and that starts in January. So we really have very little time off. Trusting our conditioning, our coaches and our trainer is so important.”

Photocredit: FIVBPhotocredit: FIVB

When asked about the Swatch Major Series events on the tour and their expectations for the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals, Bruno lit up. “It’s so important to say what the Swatch Major Series has done for our sport. These events are the best in the world - they are so exciting to be a part of. These Majors, they are far different from any other event, you know? The atmosphere and the crowds - we want to win these events. It drives us. The Finals here in Fort Lauderdale especially, yes. This is for pride and for our country. Also for the prize purse, it is very large ($100,000 for 1st) and a huge motivation.”

All four Brazilian teams are favorites here at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals which kicks off tomorrow at 10AM ET. On the men’s side Alison & Bruno sit on top of Pool B and Evandro & Pedro are the #3 seed in Pool A. On the women’s side Agatha & Barbara are favored to win Pool A with fellow team mates Larissa & Talita sitting on top of a competitive Pool B.