Beach volleyball champion Esteban Grimalt: "The Pan American Games are going to be the most important sports event in the history of Chile"

Beach volleyball champion Esteban Grimalt: "The Pan American Games are going to be the most important sports event in the history of Chile"
Fecha de publicación: 
18 October 2023
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There are many unknowns in an athlete’s life. Beach volleyball player Esteban Grimalt can be sure of one thing.

The next time he walks out in front of sports fans, the cheers will be deafening.

Aside from being one of Chile’s top medal hopes at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, Grimalt will carry the flag of the home nation at the Opening Ceremony on 20 October.

And the Santiago native is not taking the role lightly. 

“The Pan American Games in Chile are going to be the most important tournament, the most important sports event in the history of our country," Grimalt told "It is something that motivates us a lot. We are locals. We will be able to compete in front of our families, our friends and our dear ones who always only watch us from a distance."

The defending champion from Lima 2019 is arguably even more motivated than most as the family members who will be cheering him on include Chilean volleyball royalty while his playing partner is his cousin and Tokyo 2020 flagbearer Marco Grimalt.

The power duo is now hoping to delight local fans once again and set themselves up for a third Olympic appearance at Paris 2024.


19 Oct - 5 Nov

Pan American Games 2023 | Santiago - Chile


Pan American Games 2023 | Santiago

Grimalt, Grimalt, Grimalt: A family album of volleyball glory

The prospect of playing in front of family at Santiago 2023 has a special meaning for Grimalt.

His surname is intertwined with the history of volleyball in Chile. His father, Jaime Grimalt, is a seven-time champion of the country's National Volleyball League, while his mother Monica Fuster captained the national women’s volleyball team for almost a decade. His older brother, Rafael Grimalt, played club volleyball as a setter.

It is not surprising then that Esteban Grimalt did not have to go outside the family circle to pursue his passion in the sport. An indoor volleyball player at the time, he started playing beach volleyball with his cousin Marco in 2006 as a summer pastime.

When the cousin duo realised that they could achieve more together on the sand than on the hard court, they shifted all their attention to beach volleyball.

That switch ultimately led to them becoming one of the discipline's strongest teams on the continent. Aside from their gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games, the Grimalts won gold at the South American Games and celebrated three victories on the prestigious Beach Volleyball World Tour.

All for Chile: Two cousins, two flagbearers

While Esteban and Marco Grimalt have shared triumphs and defeats over the 12 years since they became competitive in beach volleyball, soon they will have one more experience in common.

"Marco did it in Tokyo. I want to enjoy it to the fullest when it's my turn now at the opening of the Games," Esteban Grimalt said of carrying Chile's flag at Santiago 2023.

"It is a pride for us that the people in Chile, the authorities and the athletes themselves consider us to be representatives of Chilean sport, that they have chosen us for these important mega-events such as Tokyo and the Pan American Games in Chile, at home. It is something that, for us, will undoubtedly be unforgettable. We appreciate it very much and we want to enjoy it to the fullest when it's our turn."

Esteban Grimalt's turn will come on 20 October when the 2023 Pan American Games are declared open at the Coliseo del Parque Estadio Nacional. He will carry the flag together with Chile's star swimmer Kristel Kobrich.

The significance of that moment is not lost on the 32-year-old beach volleyball player who was born and raised in the Chilean capital.

"At Lima 2019, the previous Pan American Games, we managed to get the gold medal and it was a great joy for our country, so we would love to be able to do it again, this time at home to make it even more special and to be able to give that joy again to the people of Chile," Grimalt said.

While the Grimalts are among the favourites to win the men's tournament in Santiago, they appear unfazed by the extra pressure of defending a title at home.

"We know the team we are and we know that we have the level to be competing for medals, the best positions at the top, so that's what we have in mind," Esteban Grimalt said. "But we are also thinking about going game by game. We are always going to plan and plan each game that comes our way. Without a doubt, however, the main objective is to be fighting for the medals.

"We have gone on trips, we have a long career in beach volleyball and we are the first team that has represented Chile in such important tournaments as the World Cup, Pan American Games and the Olympic Games, so it's very special for us to have this opportunity to have one of the biggest tournaments in the world, and certainly the biggest tournament on the continent, in our home."


The Grimalt Olympic quest: From Cerro San Cristobal to the Eiffel Tower

If Esteban and Marco Grimalt qualify for Paris 2024, it will be their third Olympic appearance, following on Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. And while there are still nine months to go, the Games are already top of their minds.

The beach volleyball competition at Paris 2024 will take place between 27 July and 10 August with the courts set up at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

"It is a very long classification for the Olympic Games, which already began at the start of this year, and we are in the race. We want to continue having good results to get closer to our third Olympic Games and having them in Paris is something very special," Esteban Grimalt said.

"The location where beach volleyball is going to be played is something that everyone envies, so we are also very motivated and doing our best to be able to get Olympic quotas again."

Before looking up at the Eiffel Tower, however, Grimalt will be raising the flag in Santiago - and certainly hearing a stadium with a capacity of almost 50,000 spectators erupt in jubilant cheers.

"After the Opening Ceremony I am going to turn the page," Grimalt said. "We have to focus on what the tournament is going to be to bring more joy to the country."

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