By Stephen Eisenhammer
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil beach volleyball great Larissa Franca had retired from the game when countrywoman Talita Rocha made her a offer in 2014 she could not refuse – playing in a home Olympics.
“I asked if she would play in this magical event … an Olympics at home, an opportunity few athletes have,” Rocha told Reuters after crushing Poland in straight sets in front of a cheering crowd at Copacabana beach on Thursday.
“I told her there would be an arena like this … that people would be shouting our names,” Rocha said. “I think it persuaded her.”
Franca, 34, announced her retirement shortly after London 2012.
As a new pairing, she and Rocha have not lost a set in the pool stage and already look the fiercest challengers to stop the United States’ Kerri Walsh Jennings from adding one more gold to her sweep of three from three previous Olympics.
Despite both enjoying glittering careers, Olympic gold has eluded the Brazilians. “We formed the team with the grand objective of winning gold,” Rocha said.
The two complement each other, with Rocha taller at 1.81 meters compared to Franca’s 1.74 meters. But more than the height difference is a differing attitude.
“The team combines her tranquility and patience with my aggression,” Franca said.
Franca and Rocha are through to the final 16 as winners of Pool A.
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Alison Williams)