Gilberto Godoy Filho: The leader of a golden generation

Known affectionately as Giba, Gilberto Amauri de Godoy Filho was the driving force behind some of Brazilian volleyball’s greatest triumphs. In the latest instalment of our “Words of Olympians”series, he reflects on his country’s golden campaign at Athens 2004.

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© IOC / Christian Klaue President Bach at the Super Sprint World Championship Women’s finals in Hamburg.

Gilberto Amauri de Godoy Filho’s career record is impressive to say the least. Regarded in the mid-2000s as the best volleyball player in the world, the receiver-hitter, who went by the nickname of “Giba”, brought distinction to the Brazil No7 jersey, winning three world titles, eight FIVB Volleyball World Leagues, two Olympic silver medals, one Olympic gold medal and the small matter of 319 international caps. What makes that list of achievements even more remarkable is the fact he achieved it despite the fact he suffered a serious left-arm injury at the age of ten, a setback that delayed his rise to the pinnacle of his sport by several years.

His greatest achievement came at Athens 2004, where he helped Brazil overcome Italy 3-1 in the gold-medal match (25-15, 24-26, 25-20, 25-22) and was named the player of the tournament.

“It was the crowning moment of a generation that had won the lot since 2001,” he explained. “There was a four-year period when we lost just twice in major championships. We were thirsty for success. We needed it. We wanted it. And it couldn’t have been more beautiful in Athens. It was absolutely amazing to be there with those laurel wreaths on our heads.

”Casting his mind back to that Athens final, he said: “It was a tense, nerve-racking battle. We had to be very, very focused for that match. We were all at the peaks of our careers, both physically and in terms of our ability. I think it was only right for that generation to get their laurel wreaths.” 

He called time on his illustrious career following Brazil’s epic five-set defeat to Russia in the final at London 2012. “I feel very sad today,” he said at the time. “I’ve been in the national team for 20 years and I wanted to end with a gold medal. I’m leaving with the silver, which is OK, though it’snot exactly what I’d envisaged. But that’s life.”

Looking back on his 20 years at the top, the Brazilian legend picked out the four Olympic appearances he made between Sydney 2000 and London 2012 as his personal highlights.

“There’s something special about the Olympics. You just can’t explain it,” he said of his appearances at the Games. “It’s the Olympic spirit that every athlete feels deep down inside. For a lot of people just getting there is like winning a medal, while there are others who really want to be the best.”