Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 22, 2016 - The role of a libero is a thankless job - but nonetheless one that has to be done, and has to be done well. The spotlight centres on the monster blocks and the massive spikes, but if it weren't for liberos to set it all up, volleyball would be a poorer spectacle.
Sergio Dutra Santos, better known as Serginho or Escadinha ('the stepladder'), is a rare example where a libero's role has been recognised and rewarded.
Serginho celerates a point during Brazil's Rio 2016 quarterfinal against Argentina.
On Sunday afternoon, the closing day of the Olympic Games, Serginho was named Most Valuable Player of the Rio 2016 men's volleyball tournament - the icing on the cake of Brazil's remarkable gold medal.
Although Serginho is no newcomer to MVP awards (in 2009 he became the first ever libero to receive the award in an FIVB World League and has also been MVP twice in South American Championships), this one was something special.Serginho receives his MVP award at the 2009 FIVB World League finals in Belgrade.
It was Serginho's fourth and last Olympic Games - a journey that began with gold in Athens 2004, continued with a couple of silver in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and concluded with a second gold in Rio 2016.
"This was my last Olympic Games," said the 40-year-old who stands 1.84m high. "A day before the match against France I talked to the other guys that I was feeling like I was in a intensive care and I needed to be alive. I asked them to help me be alive. All of them have another Olympic cycle, but not me and I really wanted to be gold one more time."
The gold medal he received at the Maracanazinho as the home crowd went wild, marked full circle in his 20-year Olympic adventure, so the comparison between the two gold medals is inevitable.
"The feeling with the first gold medal and the second one is the same," he said. "I remerber when Marcelo Negrao served for the victory in [Barcelona] 1992 and I was a boy and left home screaming, completely crazy. In [Athens] 2004 I was the champion, in the same team as talents like Mauricio and Giovane. After this I played two finals and won two silver medals. Now I'm here with the gold."
Flanked by Wallace de Souza and William Arjona embracing and Lipe examining his medal, Serginho weeps with joy on the podium at Brazil's triumph in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Still, the journey has taken its toll and Serginho just craves some normality in his life.
"Now all I want is to go home," he said just minutes after Brazil's triumphant straight-set win over Italy in the Rio 2016 final. "I want to pick up my children from school. To go to a birthday party of my friends. To eat my mother's chocolate cake. And to be Serginho. This glory will pass and I will be a normal guy."
Serginho about to become airborne as his teammates acknowledge his contribution to Brazil's Rio 2016 gold medal.
Liberos in volleyball do the 'dirty work' and very rarely do they receive the credit they deserve for their contribution. But Serginho's performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the reward for his efforts in the MVP award to complement Brazil's gold medal may now well change all that.Quick links - Volleyball:Rio 2016 Olympic Games - VolleyballRio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball scheduleRio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball - Teams - MenRio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball - Teams - Women
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