|KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA, August 1, 2004 - Not only are they the winners of the last two events, they are also the best team facing elimination in a tournament as second-seeded Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil proved here Sunday why they are the world's top team entering the 2004 Athens Games.
Playing their 17th match in their last two tournaments over a 10-day period, Emanuel and Ricardo stood atop the podium for the sixth-time this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour as they defeated seventh-seeded Franco Ramos and Tande Ramos 17-21, 21-16 and 15-10 in 61 minutes to captured the US$540,000 A1 Grand Slam gold medal.
It was Emanuel's fifth Klagenfurt gold medal since the start of the Lake Wörthersee waterfront event in 1997, but his first A1 Grand Slam since 2000 when he teamed with Jose Loiola to capture their third-straight Austrian title together. Ricardo also won his second A1 title after capturing the 2002 crown with Loiola.
"I think we have played more matches in the past two weeks than any other time in our partnership," said Emanuel, who netted his 47th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since joining the international circuit in 1993. "We had to play five elimination matches last week in Poland and three more this week. That's a lot of matches where one mistake can eliminate you."
The All-Brazilian final between the two teams was the second in two weeks as Emanuel and Ricardo also defeated Franco and Tande for the gold medal in Poland last Sunday. Franco and Tande's only win in six matches with Emanuel and Rego was in the finals of March's South African Open in Cape Town.
"We gave it our best today," said Franco, who saw his team win five-straight elimination matches this week to advance to Sunday's semi-final where they got a break when Brazilian rival Benjamin Insfran had to forfeit the match due to his abdominal strain. "Ricardo is still not at 100 percent due to his ankle sprain. They are a tough team to beat since they compete hard throughout each and every match. That's why they win so much."
Playing in their 23rd SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event since forming their partnership at the end of the 2002 season, Emanuel and Ricardo have won 11 international gold medals to rank fourth all-time. While their gold medal opponents had a pass to the finals, Emanuel and Ricardo had to win another three-setter Sunday morning by defeating 11th-seeded Christoph Dieckmann and Andreas Scheuerpflug of Germany 17-21, 21-16 and 15-11 victory in 56 minutes.
For their work Sunday, Emanuel and Ricardo shared the $40,500 first-place prize. Franco and Tande split $27,000 for finish second. With Benjamin and Marcio Araujo forfeting the bronze medal match, Dieckmann, who won the SWATCH fast service award (97.2 km/h) and Scheuerpflug earned their first-ever SWATCH-FIVB World Tour medals. The Germans shared $21,000 for third. Benjamin and Marcio Araujo, who won the A1 Grand Slam title last season, split $16,500 for fourth-place.
The A1 Grand Slam was the sixth mixed gender events on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour this season. The women's gold medal was won Saturday by Kerri Walsh and Rachel Wacholder of the United States as they defeated Brazil's Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede for the title and the $40,500 first-place prize.