|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 26, 2004 - "By playing better with each match" was the way Adriana Behar stated it when asked how she and Shelda Bede won the US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam gold medal here Saturday by defeating a team from Cuba in the 45-minute final.
In winning their 31st title on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the second-seeded Adriana and Shelda finished the week with a 6-0 match mark, including a 21-16 and 21-17 win over 12th-seeded Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba.
In addition to sharing the $43,000 first-place prize, Adriana and Shelda used the 600 team points to become the second-ranked on the Olympic qualifying list behind Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States. The Cubans split $29,500 for second-place and improved their Olympic point total to 1,876.
May and Walsh have 3,960 points for their best eight finishes on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since the start of the qualifying process in January 2003. Adriana and Shelda have now posted 3,656 Olympic-qualifying points as they passed Brazilians' Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires (3,474) on the list.
"We struggled Wednesday by winning a pair of three-setters," Adriana added as she and Shelda won for the second-time this season in the past three events. "The Cubans played well. We they play well, they can beat anyone. The teams on this tour know that the Cubans are capable of winning any event. I just glad it was not this week."
Adriana credited Shelda for another "great game. She is a difference maker. Not only is she the best defensive player in the world, she is a very tough server." Adriana's comments were proved as Shelda finished the Smart Grand Slam as the SWATCH "fastest serve" winner (73.2 km/h).
After trailing 1-0 in the first set, the Brazilians to command of the set with leads of 9-6, 11-7 and 12-9 at the technical time out. The Cubans came out of the break to pull within one point at 12-11. After five straight sideout points for each team, Adriana and Shelda closed out the scoring with four-straight points to win the 23-minute set.
Fernandez Grasset and Larrea Peraza jumped to a 6-2 lead in the 22-minute second. The Brazilians got back into the set with three-straight points to make it 6-5. Adriana and Shelda gained the lead for good at 13-12 and continued to pressure the Cubans by taking 15-13, 17-14 leads before closing out the match with two-straight points.
In the bronze medal match, third-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States scored a 21-13 and 21-16 win in 38 minutes over ninth-seeded Suzanne Lahme and Danja Müsch of Germany. McPeak and Youngs split the $23,000 third-place prize while the Germans shared of $18,500.
The second of five-straight mixed gender events on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Smart Grand Slam concludes Sunday with the men's semi-finals and medal match. The international circuit continues the next three weeks with additional mixed gender events in Norway, Mallorca and France.