Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - Page 19 News List

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS: Brazilian volleyball duo eye princely reward

Reuters, LONDON

Brazilian beach volleyball pair Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca are favorites to win the women’s event at the London Olympics, but one has her heart set on more than a gold medal.

Felisberta also wants a date with a prince.

Celebrating her 29th birthday on Sunday with a ride on the London Eye, a Ferris wheel that dominates the heart of the city, Felisberta was delighted to spot the beach volleyball venue and its close neighbor, Buckingham Palace.

“It’s very nice because it’s near the house of your Queen, and I hope the princes will come, especially to my games,” Felisberta said on Monday at the Brazilian team’s training center in Crystal Palace, southeast London.

Prince Harry, 27, the youngest son of heir to the throne Prince Charles, played a well-publicized game of beach volleyball on the Copacabana during a recent trip to Brazil.

The episode fueled speculation the prince would make an appearance at the Olympic beach volleyball event, which is taking place at Horse Guards Parade, a site normally used to celebrate the birthday of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The Palace said on Monday he would be attending, although Felisberta did not know that at the time she made her remarks.

Beach volleyball has been an Olympic sport since Atlanta in 1996, but it is often not taken seriously because of endless close-up snapshots of women players in their skimpy bikinis.

Far from dismissing the hype over the outfits, the exuberant Felisberta has clearly embraced her sport’s sexy image.

She told reporters it offered great opportunities to enjoy the sight of fabulous bodies, male and female.

“For sure the people of London will enjoy the beach volleyball a lot. It’s a really interesting sport and the players have beautiful bodies. The people of the UK will love beach volleyball after these Olympics,” she said.

Felisberta seemed genuinely enthralled at the prospect of a royal audience, returning to the subject multiple times during her news conference.

However, sadly for Prince Harry, who is unmarried, the Brazilian said she had a preference for his elder brother, Prince William, 30, who married Kate Middleton last year in front of a global TV audience of millions.

“Prince William is very handsome ... But I doubt he will leave his wife for me because she is gorgeous,” the boisterous Felisberta said.

However, for all the jesting, she and her teammate are deadly serious about their medal prospects.

“We’re ready for the kill,” said Franca, 30, summing up their ambition.

The pair have lifted almost every trophy there is to win in their sport together, but their Olympic hopes were dashed in Beijing in 2008 when Felisberta pulled out with a knee injury.

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