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

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Healthy Women's Beach Volleyball Field Expected for A1 Grand Slam
Could it be that a women's event on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour will feature a healthy field for the first-time this season when the city on Lake Wörthersee hosts the world's best Beach Volleyball players in the last event before the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Lake Wörthersee hosts the women for the fourth-straight season after staging "open" men's events since 1997. The $540,000 A1 Grand Slam, presented by Nokia, starts with women's qualifying Wednesday where eight teams will earn berths in the "money" rounds that start Thursday.

The A1 Grand Slam, presented by Nokia, will be the 10th event for women this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. It probably will be the only tournament where a "healthy" field will be competing for the US$41,000 first-place prize.

At each international women's event this season, one or more players from a top-ranked team has been hindered by injuries that have forced them to miss events. The only team that "appears" healthy are Shelda Bede of Adriana Behar, but the Brazilians have the missed the last three SWATCH-FIVB World Tour to return home to prepare for Athens.

"We have played a lot of volleyball over the past years at a very high level," said Adriana after capturing the Berlin Grand Slam title with Shelda June 26 in the team's last SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. "The Olympic qualifying process the past 14 months has been tough physically and mentally on everyone. We just needed some time away from the travel and competition to get ready for the Olympics."

Adriana and Shelda won the first A1 Grand Slam when it was the site of the 1999 FIVB World Championships in 2001. It was their second world title after winning the gold medal at the 1999 FIVB Championships in France. In between, the Brazilians captured the silver medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

The women's championship match is set for Saturday where Misty May and Kerri Walsh are expected to compete for their third-straight Lake Wörthersee title after winning the last two gold medal matches over teams from Brazil. May has missed two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in Norway and France due to an abdominal strain. Walsh played with Rachel Wacholder at both events and netted bronze in Stavanger and a and gold medal in Marseille.

While Shelda and Adriana placed second to May and Walsh in the 2002 A1 Grand Slam, Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires were the silver medallists on Lake Wörthersee last season. Ana Paula's hand injury forced her team to miss events in Greece, China and Japan earlier this season. Pires calf injury forced the team to forfeit out of the Berlin Grand Slam, as she and Ana Paula skipped stops in Norway, Mallorca and France to return to Brazil for rehab.

Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst, the gold medalists at the Sydney 2000 Games, are seeking their third Olympic medals, but with different partners this time. Cook has missed six events this season due to a right shoulder, as she and Nicole Sanderson have a silver medal finish in Japan to their credit.

Pottharst played through chronic knee problems this season as she qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games with Summer Lochowicz. However, 39-year old Pottharst missed the last international stop in Marseille for some much-needed rest after she and Lochowicz edged out Angela Clarke and Kylie Gerlic for the second Australian women's berth in Athens.

Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs, who won two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour gold medals in China and Norway this season, also skipped the last two women's event due to a domestic event in New Jersey and a week away from Beach Volleyball to prepare for Austria and the Olympics.