Veronica Lima was an integral part of the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team’s success when she started at middle blocker for the University of Hawaii from 1998 to 2000.
Coach Dave Shoji recalls her arriving from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, after time out of the sport. He wasn’t impressed, until she got back into game shape and began to comprehend the Hawaii system.
In three years, Lima might have spent three whole sets on the bench.
"She could do everything," Shoji said. "Block middle, hit the slide, hit the high ball and pass and play defense. She could just play the game. Like most kids here, she had a great understanding of the game."
After Hawaii’s 2000 season ended at the final four, Lima went home to chase her dream of playing for Brazil’s national team.
"I did good and had a real chance of achieving that goal, but after a year and a half, I realized that I had ‘grown out’ of volleyball," Lima wrote in an e-mail. "That’s a bit tough to explain, but after three years living abroad, studying at university level and playing in a system that allows you to do that — play and study, both at a high level — I couldn’t accept that, in Brazil, we were only able to do part of that — play or study. Summing up, to play professionally in Brazil you need a type of commitment that I didn’t believe in anymore. I had too many questions to ask my coaches. Ask Dave about that, he’ll understand."
Shoji does. He remembers Lima as opinionated, emotional and "a very warm and sensitive person when you got to know her." She had a habit of shaking her finger and saying "I no like that" that became endearing.
Lima returned to school and earned her journalism degree in 2005. She moved to Brasilia, her country’s capital, and worked as a press assistant in an agency similar to the Federal Communications Commission. This March she started as a reporter for a public radio station at the House of Representatives, and loves it.
She’s been back here just once, but keeps in touch with a few friends, including former teammate Jessica Sudduth. A couple of years ago, Lima took an 8-hour train ride to visit Shoji when his son was playing with the junior national team in Brazil.
"I always think of my friends there and cherish the time I spent in Hawaii," Lima wrote. "When people ask me about it I only have great things to say, especially about the love I got from the fans. It’s a kind of love that’s different from what you are accustomed to seeing in sports fans, it’s a different type of connection. It must be Aloha!"
She is not shy about sharing it. Lima proudly plays Na Leo, Keali’i Reichel, Sistah Robi and Ka’au Crater Boys CDs for friends and listens to "Hawai’i 105 Kine FM" on the Internet.
When Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" became a hit in Brazil, she convinced her radio station to feature him. She proudly passes on the link (tinyurl.com/2fh4vdn), but offers this warning: All but the song is in Portuguese.