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Roared on by a sell-out home crowd that made light of the driving rain, Cerutti and Oscar Schmidt scored a 2-0 win over the Italian pair, the reigning European champions, to land Brazil’s first Olympic gold in the sport in 12 years. The home favourites were made to work hard for their victory, however, with the Italians starting both sets strongly.
Nicolai and Lupo moved into a 5-1 lead in the opener before Oscar Schmidt checked their momentum with an ace, kick-starting a fightback. With Cerutti showcasing his power at the net and Oscar Schmidt conjuring up some deft spikes, the Brazilians eventually took the set 21-19.
Undeterred, the Italians made the early running again in the second, holding a 10-7 advantage at one stage before the home duo clawed it back once more, with Oscar Schmidt playing an inspired game, placing the ball all over the court, invariably out of reach of the diving Italians. A Lupo fault on match point gave the Brazilians the set 21-17 and with it the match, sparking huge celebrations in the stands at the Beach Volleyball Arena.
“The difference in this Olympics has been the crowd,” said an emotional Cerutti. “They’ve been at our side through difficult moments. Winning here on Copacabana is incredible. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he added, before explaining the hard work and dedication that has gone into their success: “You never win a gold medal by just sitting in your home and showing up for the match. The year 2014 was symbolic. We bought the land in 2014, in the year 2015 we build the house and in the year 2016 we’ve painted the house.”
Paying tribute to his father’s part in his gold medal, Oscar Schmidt said: “My father insisted three times in my life that I continue with my volleyball. I was often tired. My friends had graduated from school, but my father always said that nothing comes easy in life, you have to insist. The same thing has happened in the Olympics, and my father has backed me all the way.”
Nicolai was gracious in defeat: “They are the best team in the world. Today we tried everything but they were better. We have a medal in the Olympics. I don't know how to explain it. When you lose something, it's a little bit difficult but we are so proud of our team.” Giving his views on their silver, Lupo said: “This medal is for my friends and family that have supported me with my beach volleyball. This is for them.”