- The games
- Organising Committee
- Rio de Janeiro
- Take part
Olympic champion, best in the world. Moments left behind. Muse, mother. Infinite opportunities that will never come back. Idol, reference. The loneliness that making choices and losing things can bring. The glory of the podium. The price to pay. For Paula Pequeno, gold medallist in Beijing 2008, chosen the best player of the last edition of the Games, there are many answers, but there is only one question: where was she willing to go to get to the top?
Model at the age of four, she has substituted the runway for sport when she was twelve years old. At the age of fifteen, she moved from her hometown due to Volleyball: from Brasília to São Paulo. She was part of the Brazilian girls’ youth team at seventeen and entered the adult team two years later. Her mother, also a Volleyball player, was on the court till eight months of pregnancy. Old times, but not so old. Paula has played till the fifth month of pregnancy. Today, her daughter, Mel, is five years old. The life of training, traveling and playing required distance. Yesterday and today, older priorities are left behind.
“You give up almost everything. First of all, you stop studying. Then, you leave your family, stay a lot of time without seeing your friends, your relatives. I have a daughter and I lost most of her childhood because I was traveling. For me, it is the most… I have to give my best here and make this worth, because those moments of her that I’ve lost won’t come back. You have to be here with all your heart. Otherwise, you’d better not be here. It is really hard. But I don’t complain. We do this because we love it”, tells us the player, between the training that took place in the great Brazilian team Development Centre, in Saquarema, state of Rio.
First Games, first gold
After being defeated three times in a row in the Olympic semi-finals, the girls from Brazil had to make extra sacrifices. Paula was a rising star when a left knee injury left her out of Athens 2004. She watched on TV the painful Russian victory over the Brazilian girls, who have lost seven match points. From that point on, between glories and failures in other competitions, they had just one goal in mind: the gold in Beijing 2008. There were eight matches and just one lost set, the second set in the final against the United States.
“The group was focused. We worked very hard, fiercely. Every second was profitable, so much in the tactical training as in the technical and physical aspects. Everyone was very focused, with the eyes sparkling, everyone had the same goal. Everyone knew where to go. All of that helped us a lot”, she recalls.
1.85m tall, long dark straight hair, piled high with a white hair ribbon, her style and beauty inside the court have already given her the title of muse. The list of faithful fans has only grown longer. An example to the young athletes, chosen twice the best player in the world (2005 and 2008), mother in 2006, and the number of victories has also grown. The Olympic gold was the summit. London 2012, after being defeated and the winner, comes with a new taste.
Heading to Rio 2016™
At 29 years old, Paula shows that she has breath, but she doesn’t make predictions about Rio 2016™. For the Olympic Games of her country, she sees tangible and intangible legacies. She has travelled the world representing Brazil. She knows that people have to make their part. “Many people, who didn’t intend to get to know Brazil and Rio de Janeiro before will intend to do it. It cannot be different; they will have to get to know it (giggles). I am sure that we, with our hospitality, our welcoming spirit, we will please most people. I hope it enhances tourism. This will bring positive consequences to Rio de Janeiro, so that it becomes a better city”, she says.
“The organisation is important. You have to be confident that the work will be well done. The gymnasiums have to have a good structure, the hotels have to be comfortable, and the food has to be good. Organised transportation is a very important point to an athlete. Overall, having a good rest, a good food, a good place to train and a certain level of comfort and quietness is the thing that can help us in such a big event as this one”, she summarises.
Best of the world, muse and mother, Paula Pequeno is a reference to millions, but she stays with her feet on the ground. Pretty and renowned, she keeps her humanities whenever she wins or loses. She made a difference to Brazil team in Beijing 2008, and she is the jewel that was missing to a talented generation. To get to the top, she knew how to give in. Giving up in the name of Volleyball has always brought her rewards.