22 years, 3 Olympic medals, 3 World Championship titles, and 10 World Tour trophies since he made his debut on the international beach volleyball stage, Emanuel Rego, perhaps the game’s greatest, has announced that he will retire after this week’s Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam in Brazil.

I think it was back in 2000 when I first watched a whole beach volleyball match and when I first realized that the outdoor version of our favourite sport could be just as mesmerizing. It was surely at a later stage when I came across various statistics and records of all-time winners and title holders. I never fancied a specific team more than any of the rest, but even then one special player became a byword for winning and sportsmanship. The years kept coming, I grew older, my passion and knowledge about the sport have increased further, the game has changed more or less over the seasons, he could be seen alongside different partners, yet some things always remained the same – his charisma, his increasing pile of medals, and most importantly – his example to anyone, be it a fan or a young player. To me, to watch and write about beach volleyball has been synonymous with waiting for him to take his next win, his next medal. A pedestal for his unreal dexterity and skills. Not because other players were unworthy of glory, but because he quite often ended up right where he had been expected to be. He is Emanuel Rego from Brazil and the next few lines I dedicate to the player Emanuel, as the person himself will be a legend as of next week when he will no longer be a professional beach volleyball athlete.

Turning 43 come April, Emanuel will play one last event with the person who has shared most of his professional career and who helped him dominate the FIVB World Tour between 2001 and 2008 – Ricardo Santos. Beach volleyball’s most decorated twosome joined forces in 2014 for the first time since their ways parted at the end of 2009. They enjoyed podium placements mostly on the domestic circuit, thus making it difficult to fight the fierce competition, both local and international, for Olympic quotas. The reigning world champions Alison-Bruno were automatically qualified to the Games and it looks like Brazil’s second strongest tandem Pedro-Evandro is close to receiving the other berth (just like any other participating nation, the hosts will send a maximum of two teams to the beach volleyball tournament). As unlikely as it still seems to many, the time seems appropriate for Emanuel to step down and there is no more suitable venue to do so than at home in Brazil where the Olympics will take place in a couple of months.

Born in Curitiba, approximately 850 kilometers southwest of Rio de Janeiro, Emanuel made his first World Tour appearance namely on Copacabana in February 1994. Since starting his professional beach volleyball career in 1991 as a 17-year-old, Emanuel Rego has been the dominant player on the FIVB World Tour with 76 gold medals achieved with five different players, with the ongoing Rio Grand Slam this week being appearance No. 255 – the most by any player in the history of the sport.

What other players, current and former, say about him:

Jonas Reckermann: “Emanuel is the greatest beach volleyball athlete ever and inspired more than just one generation of beach volleyball players. He was a great team leader and was able to lift his partners to a higher level.”

Todd Rogers: “When I think of the greatest international male beach player of all time, my first thought is Emanuel Rego.”

Sinjin Smith: “Emanuel’s record is quite simply the best ever. He has competed at the highest level with the most success over the longest period of time.”

U17 World Championship removed from 2016 calendar

Originally scheduled for 12-17 July in the Brazilian town of Cabo Frio, in close proximity to Rio de Janeiro, FIVB’s U17 World Championship has been removed from the 2016 calendar. The reason – difficulties securing the event’s organizer. Two age-group World Championship are still to be held in 2016 though, with Lucerne, Switzerland, hosting the U21 tournament and the Cypriot town of Larnaka welcoming the U19 championship.