Junior tennis player Igor Belineli spent his childhood in Vitoria, Brazil – a coastal capital city in Espirito Santo renowned for its beaches. But his name, in its abbreviated version, is not traditionally Brazilian.
His first name, Igor, is Russian; his parents chose it because it meant peace. His last name, Belineli, is Italian, from his mother, Nilma’s side. His mother’s family is from Italy and his father, Fernando’s family is from Portugal.
His full name, Igor Belineli Manhaes da Silva, has two of his father’s last names, as is customary in Brazil.
“In reality, I am a very big mix,” Belineli said. “If you were to do a DNA sample on me, I would be just a mix of everything.”
Belineli only returns home twice a year, but when he does, everyone is nearby. His aunt lives next door to his grandmother, who lives next to his parents’ home. Besides the familial closeness, there is a sense of friendliness in Brazil that Belineli said he hasn’t found in the U.S.
“People are much warmer and approachable in Brazil, and in the U.S., people are much more reserved,” he said.
Belineli had to deal with that culture shift while navigating the English language. Growing up, he only spoke Portuguese and had to teach himself to speak English before coming to the U.S.
“When I moved here, I thought I had a (good) level of English but it wasn’t good enough, and that was a shock,” Belineli said.
With the cultural and language differences in his way, it took Belineli a while to develop close friendships at Chapman.
He had friends from Brazil who moved to the U.S. to play tennis and he wanted to follow in their footsteps, but only somewhere that had a similar environment and weather to Brazil. California was the answer.
“I don’t do well with cold weather,” Belineli said.
Despite the sometimes challenging transition to the U.S., Belineli, an accounting major, has made progress toward a career in accounting.
He interns for EY, formerly Ernst and Young, where he hopes to receive a job offer when he graduates. Eventually, Belineli said, he wants to become a certified public accountant in the U.S.
Belineli applied to all nine schools in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. When he realized he wanted to go to school in the U.S., he reached out to head coach Will Marino, sending him various emails and highlight videos. Marino liked what he saw and offered Belineli a spot on the class of 2019 tennis team.
“Igor is always the first player at practice and games and the last one to leave,” Marino said. “He is a great leader and shows extreme dedication to this program.”
Junior teammate Brock DeHaven said Belineli’s passion extends to his care for teammates off the court.
“If I could describe Igor in one word, it would be kind,” DeHaven said.