Rio de Janeiro: Alison “The Mammoth” Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt sparked wild scenes at a rain-soaked Copacabana stadium as they powered to men’s beach volleyball gold at the Rio Olympics on Friday.
The hulking, 6ft 8ins (2.03m) Cerutti, a losing finalist in 2012, and his new partner Schmidt thumped Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 21-19, 21-17, prompting joyous celebrations.
Brazil’s public has shown signs of ambivalence toward the Olympics but the country can now celebrate a fifth gold medal, sealed at its most famous beach.
“It’s incredible. This is place is like the Maracana of beach volleyball,” Cerutti said, comparing the Copacabana venue to Rio’s iconic football stadium.
“I have no words to describe what I feel.”
After the win, Cerutti leapt head-first into the stands to celebrate with friends and family, and wept tears of joy — just as he did when he won the silver medal in 2012.
“I wept in London and I wept here. Both times were because I’ve won an Olympic medal,” he said. “We’re a select group, not many Brazilians have an Olympic medal.”
Wet conditions and a midnight start failed to dampen spirits at Copacabana’s packed-out temporary stadium, where fans donned plastic ponchos and samba dancers jiggled in the rain.
“The Mammoth” lived up to his nickname with an immense display at the net in the first set. And after Nicolai brought up set point with a wayward spike, it was a trademark Cerutti block that sealed it 21-19.
Italy led 11-7 in the second set but Cerutti turned the tables as he reeled off seven of Brazil’s points in a row to put the world champions level at 14-14.
The Italians, no dwarves themselves at 6ft 8ins (Nicolai) and 6ft 4ins (Lupo), struggled to find a way past Cerutti. Lupo ended flat on his back after a block.
When Nicolai nervously hit a serve out to bring up match point, the Brazilians converted with yet another block, triggering screams of delight and dancing in the stands.
Brazil, who also won women’s silver on Thursday, have come away with multiple medals at every Olympics since beach volleyball was added to the Games programme in 1996.
Earlier, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen grabbed the Netherlands’ first ever Olympic beach volleyball medal after a tight third-place play-off against Russia.
Brouwer and Meeuwsen shrugged off serving problems to edge the first set 23-21 against Russia’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov.
A heavy spike from the 6ft 9ins Meeuwsen sealed the second set 22-20 and ensured the Dutch went home with bronze.