Women's competition, Klagenfurt
From 28 July To 31 July 2004

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Their Olympics, Their Athens Preparations
KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA, July 29, 2004 - For 23rd-seeded Carrie Busch and Nancy Mason of the United States, the women's A1 Grand Slam, presented by Nokia, is their Olympics.

For Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau of Germany, the US$540,000 A1 Grand Slam is just another step in "improving" their game in preparation for their appearance in the Beach Volleyball competition at the 2004 Olympic Games next month in Athens.

"Yes, this is our Olympics," said Busch after she and Mason upset seventh-seeded Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires of Brazil 22-20, 18-21 and 15-9 to advance to the third-round of the winner's bracket against American rivals Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs.

"With the Olympics occupying both the international and domestic schedule for the next month, this will be the last time we play until September," said Busch, who placed fourth with Mason in the last SWATCH-FIVB World Tour women's event in Marseille, France. "Anytime you beat a Brazilian team it is special. And to beat a team that is one of the favourites to medal is Athens feels like an Olympic win for us."

For the 20th-seeded Pohl and Rau, Thursday's two wins over teams from the Czech Republic and Brazil was just as "important. We are playing a lot better as of late," said Rau. "Some things have changed for us the last month, so we are playing a lot more relaxed."

The Germans will play fifth-seeded Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan in their first match Friday as they attempt to win three-straight matches in a tournament this season. "We were more comfortable on the court today, especially in our second match against the young Brazilians."

Pohl and Rau defeated fourth-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil 21-19 and 21-15 in their second match Thursday. The young Brazilians had placed first (Mallorca) and third (Marseille) in their last two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events.

Also winning two matches Thursday to advance to the third-round of the winner's bracket were the teams of top-seeded Shelda Bede/Adriana Behar of Brazil, third-seeded Kerri Walsh/Rachel Wacholder of the United States, 25th-seeded Marrit Leenstra/Rebekka Kadijk of the Netherlands and the Yanchulova sisters (Lina and Petia) of Bulgaria.

Leenstra and Kadijk challenge Shelda and Adriana, who won the A1 Grand Slam in 2001 when the event was the FIVB World Championships, Friday morning. Walsh and Wacholder, who play the Yanchulovas in their first match Friday, won the last SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event in Marseille when they defeated Davis and Johnson Jordan in the finals. Walsh has also won the last two A1 Grand Slam events with Misty May, who is currently sidelined with an abdominal strain.

Eight other teams are still competing in the women's double-elimination SWATCH- FIVB World Tour event with one loss as Thursday's opening 40 matches were viewed by more than 14,000 Beach Volleyball fans.

The fourth annual women's competition continues on the Lake Wörthersee lakefront through Saturday when the winning team shares the $40,500 first-place prize in the final SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event before the Athens Olympic Games.