|Termoli, Italy, September 11, 2004 - Zbigniew Bartman and Michal Kubiak are getting very comfortable playing Beach Volleyball, but the young Polish men are using the FIVB World Championships for players 18 years old and under as part of their preparation for next January's European Youth Indoor qualification tournament in Portugal.
"This is fun," said Bartman after he and Kubiak posted a 21-17 and 21-12 win in 30 minutes over top-seeded Andrea Collini and Pietro Pezzi of Italy to earn a spot in Sunday's first men's semi-final match against 10th-seeded Reid Hall and Adam Podstawka of Canada.
The last two "final four" spots were filled by18th-seeded Ingars Ivanovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia and 19th-seeded Arunas Kirsnys and Arvydas Miseikis of Lithuania, who will play Sunday's second men's semi-final match.
"We are enjoying ourselves this week, but we still must focus on the upcoming European Youth Championships," said Bartman. "It was great winning last month's European Championships and a title here Sunday would make for a great ending to our summer adventure."
The 11th-seeded Bartman and Kubiak, who advanced to the quarter-finals with a 21-18 and 21-19 win over 20th-seeded Polish rivals Grzegorz Fijalek and Grzegorz Pajak defeated Marko Kienast and Thilo Späth of Germany 21-14 and 28-26 for the European U-18 title in Myslowice, Poland. Fijalek and Pajak won the bronze at Myslowice.
"The interest in Beach Volleyball in Poland is growing," Bartman continued. "For a lot of young Polish players, the indoor game is where the action is. It is too early to decide if we are going to play only indoor or on the beach exclusively. Right now, we are just hoping for a good finish this week."
Bartman's only "disappointment" was that Rodrigo Bernat and Diogo Pontes of Brazil had been eliminated from the competition. "We would like to get a chance at some revenge," the tall Pole noted as he and Bartman dropped an 18-21, 21-14 and 17-15 decision to the Brazilians in pool play action Thursday. Bartman and Kubiak defeated Guilherme Fereira and Roberto Pitta, the other Brazilian team in the competition, 21-13 and 21-14 later Thursday.
Hall and Podstawka gained some revenge for their country over a loss to Spain in the quarter-finals of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games when Javier Bosma and Pablo Herrera ousted Canadians John Child and Mark Heese. The 10th-seeded Hall and Podstawka won their fourth-straight match of the competition as they advanced to the semi-finals with a 21-17 and 21-15 victory over fourth-seeded Mario Ferrera and Luis Troncoso Martinez of Spain.
Ivanovs and Smedins gained a spot in the "final four" with a 22-24, 21-13 and 15-10 win over 15th-seeded Baptiste Geiler and Renaud Ventresque of France while Kirsnys and Arvydas Miseikis scored a 21-18 and 21-12 win over 16th-seeded Marco Daalmeijer and Daan Spijkers of the Netherlands.
The FIVB U-18 World Championships also features women's competition as both genders conclude play Sunday with the semi-finals and medal matches for both genders.