THE JOURNAL

On the ball in style: A day with beach volleyball champion Daniele Lupo

The Journal travels to Formia, Italy to meet 27-year-old beach volleyball star Daniele Lupo. Along with his partner Paolo Nicolai, he's a two-time European Champion, and an Olympic silver medalist. Lupo is also a member of the Italian Air Force, and a man of great taste – his watch collection includes an IWC Pilot’s Top Gun Chronograph and a Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days. We talked to him about his life and what makes him one of the best beach volleyball players in the world.


You started playing beach volleyball when you were a kid, following in the footsteps of your father and grandfather. Was this your childhood dream?

 

Yes, I started playing in Fregene with my dad and grandpa. It was very pure – I saw the way they played, and their emotions on the court. Their joy and passion were so inspiring that I knew right away I wanted to be like them. I was 6 years old.

 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell young Daniele Lupo?

 

I don’t think I would tell him anything special, to be honest. I did all the steps necessary, I followed the right path, and I stayed humble because this is how my parents raised me. I always wanted to learn from the people around me, which is probably why I often had friends who were older. Their experience was really important to me, and I was inspired by them. So maybe I would just remind 6-year-old Daniele to keep being true to himself.

 

If beach volleyball didn’t exist, what would you do?

 

This is a great question! (Laughing) I’m a sporty person, I love doing sport, even when not playing beach volleyball. I surf, and when I was a kid I used to play football. So if beach volleyball didn’t exist, I’m sure I would still be an athlete!

 

 

Olympic champion Daniele Lupo playing beach volleyball
— Olympic silver medalist Daniele Lupo training at the Olympic Training Center in Formia
Daniele Lupo and his partner Paolo Nicolai training in Formia
— Olympic silver medalist Daniele Lupo training at the Olympic Training Center in Formia

What was the moment when you realized you had become a professional?

 

Not that long ago, actually. For me the silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was a real turning point. I learned a lot of things, like how it feels to be supported by so many people, and what it really means to represent my country. That helped me to grow, not just as an athlete but as a person. I realized for the first time that I wasn’t just playing for myself, but also for all those following me.

 

As a member of the Italian Air Force since 2013, what is your relationship with the air? The sea?

 

I definitely feel much more connected with the sea. Funny enough, my dad even had a private plane, and I flew with him many times. But I’m much more a “feet on the ground” kind of person. Then again, being part of the Italian Air Force is a great experience. I really feel at home there, and I’m very thankful to be part of such an incredible team.

How do you prepare for an important game?

 

I’m really passionate about manga (Japanese comics) and cartoons. So I listen to cartoon songs or watch an episode of one of my favorite series like “Naruto”, “Dragon Ball”, or “One Piece”. Because I think that even if the plot is fantasy, there are many things to learn like: always be kind, love your friends, be loyal, and so on. Sometimes I think that kids might learn more from these cartoons than from other people.

 

What was the most important lesson you learned as a professional athlete?

 

Well, the thing about me is that I’m always late! I’m a true laggard! I was even late for this interview, and I used to be late for my training sessions too. Not that much – like five or ten minutes – but still it was a bit of a problem. So my coach and my manager taught me to be more professional in everything I do, starting with being on time. That was a great lesson.

Olympic champion Daniele Lupo on the beach
— Daniele Lupo wearing the IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days

Who is your sports idol and why?

 

I don’t have a real idol, but some of my favorites are Federer, Nadal, and Totti – they are true champions! And being a Roma FC club supporter, I have to call out [Francesco]“Capitano” Totti. Being a champion is never easy, there is a mix of responsibility and even pain, so I really admire these guys.

The IWC Pilot's Top Gun Chronograph
— Daniele Lupo with his IWC Pilot's Top Gun Chronograph

Take us through a week in the life of Daniele.

 

Okay, we start on Monday. I drive from Fregene to Formia, where I have my first training. Then lunch and a break, and I’m ready for the second training, followed by stretching and yoga. Early dinner, and at 8:30 I’m ready for bed. This is more or less my schedule for five days until Friday, when I drive back to Fregene.

 

Saturday and Sunday are actually pretty similar. I start the day with a walk on the beach. Then I usually end up playing a few matches with my friends. If my coach were here, he’d be angry and say I should be resting! Anyway, we usually spend the day at the beach together and then in the evening we have an apéro and maybe play cards. It’s really nice and you can tell my coach that afterwards I always feel very rested.

 

How would your competitors describe you?

 

When you are playing in a tournament there isn’t so much time to chat, but I’m  sure all would agree that I’m a nice guy.


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