Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 11, 2016 – Brazil’s Virna Diaz and Cuba’s Mireya Luis have been more accustomed to being on opposite sides of the net during their celebrated careers. Though any trace of this rivalry has long disappeared and Virna and Mireya’s meeting at the Volleyball House on Thursday was an opportunity to give two sporting greats the opportunity to reminisce.
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During the visit the former players remembered the Olympic semifinal in Atlanta 1996, when Cuba beat Brazil to qualify for the final and eventually win the gold medal. After the match the players came together in the locker rooms in a meeting that was less than amical. They did not know then, but they would only meet 12 years later at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
By this time their roles had changed and Mireya was the manager of the Cuban Delegation and Virna a commentator for Brazilian television. During a chance meeting at the Olympic Village, Mireya admitted that she believed Virna was one of the best players in Brazil. A once tense relationship, slowly gave way to a friendship which saw the Cuban visit Virna in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival time in 2015.
Mireya was known throughout her career for her spectacular jumping power reaching 3.39 meters, more than any other player, though being only 1.75 meters tall. She has three Olympic volleyball golds from Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000). She also led Cuba to a World Championship title in 1994 where she was chosen the best spiker and Cuba won every match with a perfect 3-0. The team would win again in 1998. Mireya retired after a second Grand Prix and a third Olympic gold medal in 2000.
Virna Dias is a former Brazilian national team player and three-time Olympian. She won bronze at the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Games and finished fourth at the 2004 Athens Games. Virna also won the 2004 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and clinched silver in 1999, where she also claimed the MVP, Best Receiver and Best Scorer awards. She was also a FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup silver medallist in 2003.