Since winning Youth Olympic Games (YOG) gold in Nanjing in 2014, Eduarda “Duda” Santos Lisboa has firmly established herself as one of the rising stars of beach volleyball. Here, she looks back at her YOG experiences.
Despite only just turning 19, Eduarda “Duda” Santos Lisboa has already amassed numerous victories at all levels of her sport and has become a star in her native Brazil, proving to be a formidable opponent for her much more experienced rivals as a rising young talent on the senior beach volleyball circuit.
Three years ago, at the YOG Nanjing 2014, it was the Brazilian’s well-placed touch shot down the line – just out of reach for her diving opponent – that gave her and partner Ana Patricia “Paty” Silva the gold medal. Her composure and court awareness were evident in what was a tight, hard-fought, three-set victory over their Canadian challengers.
Representing my country, Brazil, was an amazing experience, and there was an incredible atmosphere that built up there. Being there with other athletes and our Chinese hosts was huge and very emotional for me.Eduarda “Duda” Santos Lisboa Brazil
Duda’s YOG gold medal was a harbinger of even greater things to come. The 1.80-metre tall athlete has quickly become the most decorated youth beach volleyball player of all time, having won a remarkable three under-19 and two under-21 world titles.
She has now set her sights on making a similar impact at senior level. In May, competing in front of her home fans in Rio de Janeiro, Duda and her new partner Agatha Bednarczuk – the Olympic Games Rio 2016 silver medallist and a former world champion – captured victory at an FIVB World Tour four-star event. For Duda, it was her maiden win at senior level, and yet another milestone to add to an already impressive CV.
At the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna (Austria), she sat down with olympic.org to discuss how her YOG experience has helped advance her career as she sets her sights on the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020…
What was your experience like at the YOG Nanjing 2014 and what did it mean to win the gold medal?
“It was a great experience playing there. Not only from the sport aspect, because the level of play was incredible, but also being with other athletes and learning about other cultures. It prepared me for bigger tournaments, like the World Championships in Vienna.”
Did you walk with your fellow Brazilian athletes in the Opening or Closing Ceremony?
“I went to the Closing Ceremony, and it was an incredible feeling to be together with other athletes who had won medals. Representing my country, Brazil, was an amazing experience, and there was an incredible atmosphere that built up there. Being there with other athletes and our Chinese hosts was huge and very emotional for me.”
How did the YOG help prepare you to continue to succeed and win more tournaments?
“The YOG have helped a lot, most of all to get used to the atmosphere of big events like here at the World Championships. You get a little bit shocked at how much is going on, and the YOG helped me to grow up to this new world of senior sport. It was an important experience.”
What is it like playing now with Agatha, a more experienced and older player who had success at Rio 2016?
“Agatha has a lot of experience and she is very helpful, most of all because I’m still at the beginning of my career. Not only when we’re winning, but also when we’re losing. After we lost in round one in Vienna, she told me, ‘You have to be patient and wait, it’s just your first World Championships. The world will not end – you just have to keep working hard.’ Agatha also helps me with life on and off the court. I’m really comfortable with her.”
What was your own experience like at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and how much fun was it?
“I had 10 days there and it was an incredible experience. I will never forget the quarter-final game between Alison [Cerutti] and Bruno [Schmidt] and the Americans [Paul Dalhausser and Nick Lucena]. There was such a vibe with this packed stadium of Brazilians cheering on their athletes.”
What will it take to qualify for and make the Brazilian team for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020?
“It is just my first year with Agatha, and the big fight for the Olympic berths starts in a year or two, so there is still time to prepare. It is a big goal, and I want to do everything in my power to qualify for the Games. It will be tough with all the competition in Brazil.”
If you make it to Tokyo 2020 as a competitor, how might your experience at the YOG Nanjing 2014 help you?
“It will help a lot. I know from Nanjing what the Olympic atmosphere might be like, as it felt like an Olympic Games to me. It will help me to stay calm and not be afraid of being at an event like the Olympic Games.”