Larissa França could be compared to Roger Federer or Michael Schumacher on her specialist sport of beach volleyball. At the age of 34, her ascension to the peak of the sport has seen her dominate the sand and claim more titles and championships than any other player in history.
França even allowed herself two years away from playing, retiring immediately after taking a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
Her return to the sand could be linked to her CV in Olympic competition. It makes for less than dominant reading. Respectable yes, but not by França’s standards is it acceptable, so it would seem. The competition in Beijing in 2008 brought her bad luck, as she finished in fifth place, alongside Ana Paula Connelly – a team fashioned hurriedly together after injury prevented regular partner Juliana Felisberta da Silva from competing. In 2012, she took bronze medal, alongside regular lieutenant da Silva, before announcing her retirement. Yet it still felt like unfinished business.
So, armed with a new teammate in Talita Antunes, 33, França has launched another assault on the medal that would complete the finest collection of titles in the history of ladies beach volleyball.
After collecting her bronze medal in London, França announced Her intention to marry her partner, fellow beach volleyball player Lili Maestri, and they married in August 2013. Yet França still feels that although Brazil has no laws preventing same-sex marriage, it is a concept that is merely tolerated, rather than embraced.
“I know all the prejudice that exists in society against homosexuals,” said Franca, “We don’t choose our feelings, let alone control them.”
França is the heavy favourite to finally scoop the gold medal this year, in what may be a career finalé on home sands, and she’ll do it with the support of her wife on the sidelines.