RIO DE JANEIRO – Alison Cerutti is 6-foot-8 and built like an NFL linebacker. His hands are about as large as a Frisbee. His nickname is “The Mammoth,” and rightfully so.
But even the most monstrous competitors can be overcome by the emotions of a home crowd and the chance to win an Olympic medal.
Cerutti collapsed to the sand and wept after Brazil’s top-seeded men’s beach volleyball team survived a three-set war against Alexander Browuer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands, 2-1 (21-17, 21-23, 16-14). Alison led all players with 12 blocks.
The third set was a roller-coaster. Brazil saw a 10-7 lead become a 12-11 advantage for the Dutch, but Cerutti and partner Bruno Oscar Schmidt rallied to take the set, 16-14, in front of a delirious home crowd at Copacabana Beach.
“Sometimes, you need to face tough moments. The crowd understands those things,” said Schmidt after knocking out Team USA in the quarterfinals. “They want to support you. But there is also pressure behind this. We knew since the start we going to face those things. Pressure. The energy. The main thing is handling it as best as possible.”
Alison was overcome by it at the end, dropping to the sand and burying his face in it.
A major star in Brazil, the 30-year-old is guaranteed a medal for the second straight Olympics, having won silver in London.
But it’s gold that the Brazilians and their fans want, and it’ll be either Russia or Italy in Thursday’s final.
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