Brazil’s beach volleyball stars have made a winning start in their hunt for gold at the Rio Olympics, beating their opponents on Copacabana’s golden sand.
The women’s double of Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas defeated on Saturday their Czech Republic rivals 19-21 21-17 15-11 in front of a packed crowd at a stadium on Rio’s famous beach.
Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt, the country’s male beach volleyball pair, also beat their Canadian opponents in straight sets.
“To start an Olympics at home, to see this crowd shouting Brazil, it’s a dream come true,” said Cerutti.
Brazil has won more medals in beach volleyball than any other country since it was introduced to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
In Rio, where nets dot the coastline, long stretches of sand provide the perfect training ground for aspiring beach volleyball stars.
“As any visitor to Rio’s beaches will tell you, Brazil’s prowess in the sport is on display every day,” Al Jazeera’s Adam Raney, reporting from the city’s renowned Ipanema Beach, said.
“People have been coming out to beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana to practise the sport for more than a half century.”
“Everyone thinks Brazil is great at football. No, we’re also good at volleyball,” player Barbara de Sousa told Al Jazeera.
On Saturday morning, outside the stadium on Copacabana, crowds were riotous despite long lines and delays at security gates. Hundreds without tickets cheered from the street and on the sand nearby.
Willy Pereira, 28, a computer technician, wearing a Brazil shirt as he stood in line for the matches, explained the love locals have for the sport.
“I love the beach. I play volleyball … on this beach or in Ipanema,” he told the Reuters news agency.
“It’s a marvellous sensation to have this so close to home.”