Lucerne, Switzerland, May 11, 2018 – “Beach volleyball in Chile is mostly amateur. As the only professional team in our country, we want to set an example and give motivation to young players in Chile to get into beach volleyball and grow the sport,” stated Rio Olympians Esteban Grimalt and Marco Grimalt, the well-seasoned Chilean cousins on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, who are currently taking part in the three-star event in Lucerne.
28-year-old Marco and 27-year-old Esteban come from a traditional volleyball family. Their fathers and the remaining five uncles all played volleyball and beach volleyball in Chile. Two of them, Rodrigo Grimalt and Ricardo Grimalt, even appeared at several FIVB World Tour events between 1987 and 1998.
As most volleyball kids in Chile, Marco and Esteban started with indoor volleyball, but in 2010 they switched to the sand.
“We won a continental medal in South America, so we got more sponsors and the support of the Chilean government as potential Olympians,” remembered the cousins. “We were very close to qualifying to London 2012, but we lost the final of our Continental Cup tournament.”
They started playing on the World Tour in 2011. In 2014 they achieved their first (and to-date only) podium finishes on the Tour – silver medals from the Parana Open in Argentina and from the Mangaung Open in South Africa.
After a couple of more final four finishes, the big breakthrough for the Grimalt cousins came in 2016, when they won the CSV Continental Cup and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. Despite losing all their three matches in Rio, it was a very positive experience for them.
“Rio was an amazing experience! It was our dream from when we were little boys coming true,” Esteban reminisces. “To be there, among the greatest athletes in the world, was incredible. We want to do it again, but next time we don’t just want to participate - we want to fight the competition.”
However, they have not been able to reach the final four of a World Tour event since the Fortaleza Open in April and May of 2016.
“It’s beach volleyball!” Marco explained. “There are many really good teams, so it is very difficult to make the finals at a World Tour event. It is not that we are playing bad; it is that the other teams are playing very good. But we are working on our improvement, so we can catch up.”
So far in 2018, the Grimalts played at one event, the five-star Fort Lauderdale Major in February and March, where they made it through the qualifications into the main draw before finishing 25th. Now they are seeded fifth in Lucerne, hoping to recover from the hard-fought loss in their first match in the pool.
Marco Grimalt in blocking action at the 2018 Fort Lauderdale Major
“In our next match we want to play better than we did in our first match, and then we want to advance as far as possible in the tournament. Of course, we want to reach the finals, but we need to take it one match at a time,” they commented.
“It is not always convenient for us to travel so far away from Chile to play in one- or two-star tournaments. That’s why we missed so many tournaments this year,” the cousins explained. “But starting from now, we will go to most of the four- and five-star events that are coming up – Brazil, Czech Republic, Poland and so on…”
Apart from doing better on the World Tour and pursuing their renewed Olympic dreams, Marco and Esteban have also set on a different kind of mission.
“Playing these tournaments and sharing our experience, we want to inspire more young Chilean players to follow in our footsteps. We visit schools and speak to the students as motivation to them. I would not say we are famous in Chile, but we are recognizable, especially in the volleyball and beach volleyball community,” Esteban said.
“A school of beach volleyball opened in Chile only two years ago. Before that, indoor players would play on the sand in the summer, and we were the only ones, who played beach volleyball year-round. Now we have followers among the young athletes and we want to help them grow into better beach volleyball players for Chile. In our country, we have very different weather between the north and the south, but the beach is everywhere, so beach volleyball can potentially be a very big sport in Chile,” Marco added.