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Olympic Review continues its countdown to the 2012 Games with exclusive interviews with stars of three more of the 26 sports on the programme, who are targeting gold in London. The Brazilian Juliana Felisberta Silva, FIBV World Tour Beach Volleyball champion for four of the past five seasons, missed the 2008 Beijing games because of injury – London 2012 cannot come soon enough for her.
How disappointing was it to miss the 2008 Games through injury?
It was like a bad dream where you never wake up. I worked for four years to compete in the Olympic Games, and just before the start it was taken away from me. I had some terrible days after that but had some great support, especially from my partner [Larissa França] and my family. They all believed I would get back to my best, more than I did.
How did you recover from that setback?
Every day I woke up and told myself I had to do something towards getting better. After one year I was back playing again with the same partner and won the World Tour. I think it was the energy created by me believing in myself and people believing in me.
What do the Games mean to you?
It’s different because of the expectation. Footballers have their World Cup, we have the Olympic Games and I really, really want to be there. I will try for the gold medal but I want to win any medal for my country and for me, so that when I have a baby I can say, ‘Your mother went there and she worked really hard for it’.
Have you ever been to London?
I’ve only been on vacation but it seems a really interesting country – the Queen, the culture, and the people are really polite. I really hope to go there for the Olympic Games.
What is your training regime?
I train six hours per day, three in the morning and three in the afternoon or evening. I usually wake around 7am, go to the gym or the beach for physical training, back home to sleep, then train again. Three times a week I have physio and massage.
What particular training do you have to do for beach volleyball?
The most stress is on the legs so that’s where you have to work hardest. You have to learn how to jump and how to move in the sand before working on your technique.
How did you get into beach volleyball?
In my school we had a choice: PE or play a sport. Well I hated PE so I chose indoor volleyball.
What is it about the sport that you like?
It’s so much more relaxed than most other sports. You travel a lot, you meet a lot of people, it’s given me the chance to experience a lot of different cultures. I always tell my friends, for me beach volleyball is the best university I could imagine.
Who are your role models?
There are three: in beach volleyball it’s Sandra Pires of Brazil, who won gold and bronze at the Olympic Games; the second is Michael Jordan, who once wrote, “I’m not a good player, I just train hard”. And the third is Ayrton Senna from Brazil, because he never quit.
What music do you listen to, and do you do any social networking?
I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends, and I listen to reggae, Bob Marley especially, and sometimes to gospel music.