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Original Issue

Adriana Behar BEACH VOLLEYBALL SURE IT'S NICE TO WORK EVERY DAY AT THE BEACH...if you can avoid all those spikes

Adriana Behar works on the beach, wears a two-piece bathing suit
to the office and in the past seven years has earned more than a
million bucks. Don't bother suggesting, though, that Behar, one
half of the world's top-ranked women's beach volleyball team,
has a cushy job. "It's a very tiring game," says Behar. "We play
almost every day, in all kinds of weather--blazing heat, wind,
rain. You keep yourself in form playing beach volleyball, but
there's a downside. It's exhausting."

Fatigue aside, it has been a charmed career for Behar, 33, who
lives and trains in her native Rio de Janeiro, where
volleyball's popularity (it plays second fiddle only to soccer)
has conferred celebrity status upon her. Since she first teamed
up with Shelda Bede in 1995, the pair has won 28 events and the
last five world championships on the professional beach
volleyball tour. They are the undisputed stars of a sport whose
raucous crowds, scantily clad participants and thumping music
often make matches seem like frat parties. "I love it," Behar
says. "You're in the sun, showing off your body, the beauty of
the game, the power. But we don't come to enjoy the beach, we
come to work."

Behar began playing indoor volleyball at 12, and by her late
teens she had played professionally in Reggio Calabria, Italy,
and Porto, Portugal. At 24 she gave up the controlled
temperatures and even surfaces of the gym for the Ipanema
beaches. "In indoor volleyball you can be a good defender or a
good striker and weak in another area," she says, "but in beach
volleyball you have to excel in all parts of the game, or your
adversary is going to find your weak point and pound you into
the sand."

That might be what happened at the Sydney Olympics, where the
heavily favored duo lost a 12-11, 12-10 gold medal match to an
Australian team that they had beaten in 14 of 17 previous
meetings. After weeping on the Bondi Beach podium and
apologizing to Brazilian fans for "waking them up to watch us
lose," Behar's edge returned. "Look, we won four international
championships in a row," she said after the Games. "Isn't that
good enough?"

Apparently not: Behar and Bede dominated the 2001 tour, winning
seven of 11 events, and their victory in the finale, at
Fortaleza, Brazil (Bede's hometown), gave them $1.1 million in
career earnings and made them the winningest team on the women's
pro tour. "Our coordination and teamwork," Behar says, "have
made us an almost unbeatable pair so far, knock on wood." No
need: For her, winning has become just another day at the
office. --Daniel Habib