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Brazilian trans volleyball star Tifanny Abreu starts a new season on top with championship

The Outsports Triumph Award winner’s dominant run ended with a Paulista Championship for her new team

Four year after breaking barriers in Brazil’s professional women’s volleyball Superliga, Tifanny Abreu has become a face of the game and a favorite of the fans
SporTV

Tuesday ended up being another winning chapter for Tiffany Abreu, the 2021 Outsports pro athlete Triumph Award winner.

The Brazilian volleyballer, now playing for Osasco São Christovão, ended a dominant run through preseason São Paulo state championships with 17 points, including 11 kills in 3 game sweep of Barueri to clinch the club’s 16th Paulista title.

The final was also an exclamation point for Abreu, who has score 97 points in the last four matches, including a torrid 32-point, 20-kill effort to dismantle EC Pinheiros in the semifinals.

The win was Abreu’s her second Paulista Championship. She won her first with Sesi Volei Bauru in 2018.

Abreu’s sizzling start, beaming smile, and adoring fans show how far she’s come. Tuesday’s night result was the latest gem in a sparkling 2021. In addition to her Outsports award honor, she’s been featured in a high-profile Adidas ad campaign, and was a prized free agent target in Brazilian volleyball in the past offseason.

It’s a world away from four years ago, when Abreu, the first transgender woman to play in Brazil’s Superliga, was discussed, debated and maligned by some.

Volleyball - Olympics: Day 8
Tandara Caixeta, shown here playing in the Tokyo Olympics, is Abreu’s teammate at Osasco now, but 3 years ago she was a leading voice against letting Abreu play in the Superliga
Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images

One of those who criticized her was Osasco outside hitter Tandara Caixeta, a 10-year veteran of Brazil’s national team with two Olympic medals. She’s led the Superliga in scoring five times, including scoring the most points in a single match.

It was a record she initially set at 37 points. It stood until January 2018.

That night, Abreu, who was then playing for Sesi Volei Bauru, put up 39 points and sent shockwaves across Brazil.

“I respect her story. However, as to her playing with women, it’s a tricky subject,” Caixeta stated to reporters upon hearing of the record. “Tifanny developed as a male. Her lungs are bigger, her heart is bigger, her hips are smaller, so it’s much easier for her to jump.”

BRAZIL-ELECTION-LGBT-ABREU
Abreu entered the Superliga in 2017 with Sesi Volei Bauru and in her first season put a single-game scoring record
NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images

The two met head-to-head three days later, and both scored 31 points, though Osasco got the a hard-fought win. Caixeta came away with further respect from Abreu, but held her previous, and current, opinion that transgender women should not be allowed to play in the Women’s Superliga.

Later that season, Caixeta tied Abreu’s single-game record. The next year, Caixeta had the first 40-point match in Superliga history.

Heading into the coming season, Osasco sought retool their team to make a “win or bust” run to a championship. The club has 15 Paulista titles including last season, but its last Superliga title was in 2014.

They brought Caixeta back last season and added Brazil national team setter Fabiana Claudino and valued attacker Michelle Pavão in the offseason. Osasco head coach Luizomar De Moura thought they needed one more piece to complete a championship frontline attack. He concluded that Abreu, who had been formidable playing against his team, was that piece.

Dinamo Moscow v Osasco Voleibol Clube - Womens Club World Championship
Osasco head coach Luizomar de Moura wanted to build a frontline to win the Superliga, and Abreu was at the top of his list
Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ironically, Caixeta was called on over the summer to recruit the player whom she said shouldn’t be allowed to play.

“I was one of the main people to call her and say ‘Come play with me. Let’s play together. It’ll be cool. Let’s have this experience,” she told the Osasco-based Oz Podcast last week.

In another twist, Caixeta is suspended pending further investigation from a positive doping test disclosed prior to the Olympic volleyball semifinals in Tokyo. Abreu has had to take up the positions on-court that Caixeta normally would play in Osasco’s attack, and rose to the challenge in the Paulista, and expects to do the same when Superliga play opens October 30.

In interviews since Abreu’s signing, Caixeta maintained her previous opinions, even while being in the same locker room. According to Abreu, they have a solid relationship overall, even with press continuing to ask about it in recent days.

“I want this person who respects me on my side. If she was so against it, I don’t think she would have me on her team,” Abreu said to SporTV after the semifinal win last week. “Tand, I’m rooting for you and I hope you come back soon and we will together win the Superliga.”