Daniele Lupo (left) and Paolo Nicolai face the biggest test of their careers in the Rio 2016 gold medal match
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 18, 2016 – Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai will face the ultimate test of their skills when they take on Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games men’s beach volleyball gold medal match on Thursday.
The Italian pair are reigning European champions, but to become Olympic champions they must overcome the current world champions, FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour champions and the number one seeds in front of 12,000 fans at the Copacabana Beach Arena, the vast majority of whom will be supporting Alison and Bruno.
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Lupo and Nicolai have played together since the middle of 2011 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the best up and coming sides on the beach volleyball circuit. It was underlined when they qualified for London 2012 where they knocked out defending champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser en route to the quarterfinals.
Earlier in 2012 they won their first World Tour medals with silver at the Beijing Grand Slam and they added a bronze later in the year. Two gold, one silver and their first European title arrived in 2014, but they lost momentum in 2015 when they won a solitary bronze.
This year they have slowly returned to form with another World Tour gold, two silver and another European gold. However, they began slowly at Rio 2016 when they lost their first two pool matches. They beat Tunisia’s Mohamed Naceur and Choaib Saleh in their final pool match and then overcame Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor in the lucky loser round.
A win over compatriots Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula filled them with confidence and gave them momentum. Their new-found levels of resilience were there for all to see as they fought back from losing the opening set to beat Russia’s Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov in the semifinals.
All that now stands between them and the top of the Olympic podium are Alison and Bruno, a team who have taken their play to new heights at Rio 2016.
After teaming up in 2014 they really hit their stride in 2015 where they won the 2015 World Championships in the Netherlands, the FIVB World Tour Finals and topped the World Tour. This year they have added another two World Tour golds to the four they won in 2015 and brought such form with them into Rio 2016.
For Alison, Rio 2016 provides the chance to make up for London 2012 where he and Emanuel Rego won silver. It would also be the crowning glory for a duo who pair the brute power and strength of Alison with the nimble feet and agility of Bruno.
Should they win Alison and Bruno will be the first Brazilian Olympic champions since Athens 2004, it is something that all but a small pocket of the Copacabana crowd will be cheering for and something that Lupo and Nicolai are standing between.