The 2003 World Championships

02.05.2019 - Rio

Our guide to every previous edition of the beach volleyball world championships heads to the Copacabana in 2003 as two American girls announce themselves on the stages of all stages...

In a nutshell

The fourth world championships headed to what many believe is the spiritual home of beach volleyball – Rio de Janeiro (just don’t tell that to any Californian – and please don’t email us!). The city had, after all, hosted the previous ‘unofficial’ incarnations of the world champs before 1999.

These 2003 championships took place a little later in the season, this time making the most of the autumn sunshine in Brazil, in early October. 47 teams per gender took part and competed for a share of a random combined total of 809,000 US Dollars.

Misty and Kerri end Brazilians dream

A certain American team, Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor, ended the Brazilian stranglehold in the women’s game by taking the title to become the first women outside of Brazil to triumph at the championships. Kerri, 25 at the time, and Misty, 26, toppled the two-time World champs Brazilians Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar, who had won in 1999 and 2001 – is there a better way to win your first world champs than in Rio, against Brazil, in the final against the reigning champions? Probably not. Australians Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson took bronze.

The Brazilian fans that packed the arena did have something to shout about in the men’s final saw the gold medal go the way to Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos as their sparkling partnership was enough to beat American pair Dax Haldren and Stein Metzger. Marcio Ararujo and Benjamin Insfran also ensured Brazil had two teams on the podium, as they won the bronze medal.

Surprise packages

The pairing of Joao Brenha and Miguel Maia came close to earning Portugal their first world championship medal by reaching the semifinals. The three-time Olympians and FIVB World Tour regulars lost out in the bronze medal match but still finished in a hugely respectable fourth place – not bad for the 13th seeds.

Also in the men’s tournament, there were a host of top-10 finishes for so-called unfancied teams, including David Klemperer and Niklas Rademacher of Germany, the number 35 seeds, plus 36 seeds from Puerto Rico, Ramon Hernandez and Raul Papaleo.

In the women’s competition, seven of the top eight seeded teams finished in the top five, the only exception being 41 seeds Shaylyn Bede and Renata Ribeiro of Brazil. The lowest seeded team in the women’s top 10 were Germans Helke Claasen and Judith Deister, seeded 40.

Worth a watch

Love it when teams silence a massive crowd? Then get a whole load of the entire women’s final between Adriana/Shelda against Kerri and Misty, lovingly uploaded to YouTube. Screened on Eurosport, it captures the joy of the Americans sealing their first World title and the disappointment of the Brazilians failing to make it three in a row in front of an expectant home crowd. Sporting drama – and history – right here.

2003 Beach Volleyball WC Rio BRA vs USA F final

Gold medal match BRA Behar/Shelda vs. USA May/Walsh

How did the Brazilians do?

Well considering this is Brazil… they did pretty well. Three teams took medals, including the gold one in the men’s event thanks to Emanuel and Ricardo. In total 15 Brazilian teams took part and, and across both genders, a total of eight finished in the top 10 (four men’s, four women’s).

A look through those that competed saw a 21-year-old Larissa Franca finish in 17th place with Ana Richa on her World Championship debut.

A special World Championships because…

Ricardo and Emanuel took gold.

We’re not sure anything can top a Brazilian team winning gold on an absolutely sun-drenched Copacabana beach against a team from old rivals USA, so drink this in: Emanuel and Ricardo doing their thing in front of a passionate home crowd. Turn up the volume and just watch this beach volleyball experience unfold before your every eyes.

2003 Beach Volleybal WC Rio BRA vs USA M final

Gold medal match Brazil vs. USA - Ricardo/Emanuel vs. Holdren/Metzger

Impress your friends by saying:

Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar made it four championships in a row in which they took a medal, their silver here adding to the bronze they won in ’97 and the back-to-back golds secured in 1999 and 2001.


Having both partnered with other teammates, in the past, this was Emanuel and Ricardo’s first championships. And it ended pretty well for them.

Where are they now?

Misty May Treanor formed one half of the successful women’s champions from 2003 alongside teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings. At 26 at the time of the win, Treanor came into the championships having won their previous three World Tour tournaments in the US, Austria and Marseille. They dropped just one set in Rio on their way to glory – that coming in an epic 19-21, 21-19, 18-16 semifinal win over Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson of Australia.

Misty went on and – spoiler alert – won plenty more beach volleyball titles in her career alongside Kerri. That really doesn’t tell the full story, but we’ll return to talk about Misty’s magic later in this series of look-backs.

Long Beach City Volleyball got to see how it was done. Got inspired by watching @sarahughesbeach and @kellyclaes3 do their thing!#WorkHardPlayHard

1,412 Likes, 8 Comments - MistyMayVB (@mistymayvb) on Instagram: "Long Beach City Volleyball got to see how it was done. Got inspired by watching @sarahughesbeach..."

She retired from the beach after the 2012 Olympics in London and is now the Director of Volleyball at Long Beach City College, where she coaches the women’s indoor and beach volleyball teams.

The championship in three words?

Ricardo And Emanuel!

Want to read more like this?

Check out the 1997 championship story, and the articles focusing on the 1999 and 2001 editions. Next up: 2005 in Berlin.