2016-08-20 11:58:00 CEST
A hard time ends for Daniele Lupo by a crowning glory at the closing ceremony in Brazil.
Daniele Lupo couldn´t stop smiling. All athletes walked into the Maracanã Stadion, when the beach volleyball player from Italy already stood upright in the spotlight. Proudly, he waved the flag of his home country, but still looked a little bit unbelieving.
It was down to Giovanni Malagò, president of the Italian National Committee to choose Lupo as flag bearer to march at the Maracanã stadium on Sunday 21st August. It was the first time, that a beach volleyball player in Italy, was given this honour. But Lupo also gave something to his country: The 25-year-old won with partner Paolo Nicolai (28) a historic silver medal in the final against the Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt, it is Italy’s first medal in beach volleyball ever at this major tournament. „I am so happy“, Daniele said.
No other team played more at Copacabana
With 183 points, Lupo ist the best scorer of the major tournament, even Alison in the second place has 20 points less. No team played as many games or sets as Nicolai/Lupo did at Copacabana (21), who nearly dropped out of the tournament after pool play. After a bad start against Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen (21:14, 14:21, 11:15) from Mexico und the unlucky close defeat against Nick Lucena und Phil Dalhausser (13:21, 21:17, 22:24) in the last match of the pool, Nicolai/Lupo had to play the Lucky Loser match, where they beat Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak equally close (21:12, 15:21, 15:13).
After that, the two time European Champions (2014, 2016) started the power play in the elimination round. They won against their national competitors Ranghieri/Carambula, then beat Russia (Liamin/Barsuk) in the quarterfinal and in the semi-final (Semenov/Krasilnikov), before Alison/Bruno ended the winning streak in the final. But that does not tarnish the joy of Daniele and Paolo.
That can not have been anything
Since 2011 they belong to the top teams of the world. Their easiness on the court is remarkable. They are smiling a lot, even when they lose. „I am doing this particularly for fun“, Daniele said. But life isn´t always fun. In the beginning of 2015, doctors diagnosed a malignant tumor in his body, they had to operate on Daniele immediately. „After that, it wasn´t clear, if the tumor had already spread by metastases. That was the hardest time“, Daniele said. „Sometimes, I thought: I am only 24 years old, that can not have been anything.“
The intervention has been successful. „When the doctor told me, it is over, I got goose bumps and felt like being born again“, Lupo said. Only two months later, he started playing again, but it didn´t work out well in the beginning. At the World Championships in the Netherlands, Nicolai and Lupo just achieved a disappointing 17th place. „I didn´t play with the easiness, I used to play before – maybe I brooded too much, and for sure I had to work on my techniques and automatisms after the break“, Daniele said.
The longest possible road
But the duo kept it´s patience and climbed step by step back to the world class. „Paolo helped me a lot during that time“, Daniele said. Also, on the court the 2,03 meter blocking player is always on the spot when his ten centimeter shorter defensive player is under pressure. Paolo scored 16 aces at Copacabana, he is the best server of the major tournament. „We walked here the longest possible road, but now we can go home with a fantastic silver“, Paolo wrote on his Facebook page. It was perfect team work, that brought Italy the first ever medal in beach volleyball.