Europe looks on as Gabi’s star rises

Gabi Guimaraes’ 26 kills in Brazil’s 3-1 victory over USA etched the the 25-year-old’s name into the mind of every fan at Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena, and furthered her reputation as one of the world’s very best outside spikers.

Not that Gabi’s imperious performance will have come as any surprise to those who have followed her career closely and seen her inspire Minas Tenis Clube throughout the course of 2018-19.

Title winner

Indeed, it is only seven months since she scored 28 points as Minas defeated Zhejiang Women’s Volleyball Club en route to finishing second in the FIVB World Club Championship, and her form continued after the turn of the year.

Minas went all the way to the final of the Brazilian Superliga, going up against Praia Clube as the competition reached its climax without the involvement of Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 14 years.

Alongside fellow spiker Natalia, Gabi dictated the rhythm of the two-legged final as Minas triumphed at home and away to clinch their first title for 17 years.

Wanted overseas

Gabi’s rise to stardom in Brazil has not gone unnoticed in Europe, and a lucrative move to top Turkish League champions Vakifbank is reportedly in the offing.

Losing her would come as a huge blow to Minas, who only lured her away from Rio in May 2018, but Gabi’s frustrations with the limitations on women’s volleyball in Brazil could be a driving factor in a transfer away from her homeland.

“There is no doubt I have a dream to play abroad,” she told Folhapress in April, before opening up about the rules that restricts the number of top-ranked players each club can have on their roster.

The Brazilian Volleyball Confederation deems that each club can only retain two players given the top ranking of seven – a rule that applies only in the women’s game – and at Minas that means only two of Gabi, Natalia and Macris will be able to feature next season.

Frustrated by Brazil

Gabi said: “A lot of people say that we are not short of work and that we earn well, but someone’s going to have to leave Minas this year, and we are outraged.

“What makes me very sad is that all the athletes will struggle to play in Brazil for exactly that reason. Everyone wants the seven-point players to continue in Brazil, but increasingly players are looking elsewhere.

“We hope it does not have to get to the point where everyone leaves before the ranking system changes and Brazil says ‘come back’.”

Olympic dreams

For the time being, Gabi’s attention is fixed on Brazil’s VNL campaign, which recommences on June 11 with a clash against Japan in Tokyo.

The destination is an important one for Gabi, who hopes that Brazil coach Ze Roberto can lead her team to the Olympic Games in the city in 2020, with a gold medal her ultimate aim.

“Under Ze Roberto’s guidance, I learned the importance of hard work and dedication,” Gabi told FIVB’s official website. “The key is to work, work and work.

“Ze Roberto is a very intelligent person who believes that working hard makes the difference. He always taught us not to give up on our dreams and stay determined to achieve our goals.

“My big dream is to compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo and win a medal there.

“We know that the road is long and we still have a lot to improve on, but I believe in the potential of our team – we have everything to achieve a good performance in Tokyo.”