|KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA, July 31, 2004 - After more than three years of waiting, Vasso Karadassiou and Efi Sfyri can turn their entire focus on their preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games where they will be the top-seeded women's team from the host country in the 24-team Beach Volleyball competition.
"Hopefully, we can post the same result as the Australian women when they hosted the world's best players in 2000 for the Sydney Games," said Karadassiou. "Obviously, we are different teams playing for different countries. But, we still desire the same result before our family, friends and fans."
Australia's Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst used their host country seed to their advantage in the Beach Volleyball competition at the Sydney 2000 Olympics Games where they captured the gold medal by defeating Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede in the finals. It was the second Olympic medal for the Aussies, who captured the bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Knowing that they would be seeded sixth in the 2004 Games, Karadassiou and Sfyri learned here Saturday who they will be competing against during the preliminary rounds of the Athens Olympics as the FIVB, the international sanctioning body for volleyball, held the "drawing of lots" to divide the field into six pools of four teams each. The Klagenfurter Wappensaal, a 300-year-old hall in the middle of Klagenfurt, was the site for draw.
The women's preliminary rounds will be held in conjunction with the men August 14-19. The first rounds of the elimination brackets will be played August 20-21. The quarterfinals will be August 22 following by the semi-finals August 23. The women's medal matches will be August 24.
With each team playing three preliminary matches, the top two tandems from each pool advance to the 16-team elimination bracket along with the best four ranked No. 3 teams based on match records, set ratios and point ratios.
With the Karadassiou and Sfyri seeded sixth and in Pool F, the other top five-seeded teams in order of the Olympic qualifying rank are Misty May/Kerri Walsh of the United States (Pool A), Adriana/Shelda (Pool B), Ana Paula Connolly/Sandra Pires of Brazil (Pool C), Holly McPeak/Elaine Youngs of the United States (Pool D) and Cook/Nicole Sanderson of Australia (Pool E).
Joining the Karadassiou and Sfyri, who placed 17th in Sydney, in Pool F are Tian Jia/Wang Fei, China (seed No. 7), Summer Lochowicz/Kerri Pottharst, Australia (18) and Mayra Garcia/Hilda Gaxiola, Mexico (19).
May, who placed fifth in Sydney with McPeak, and Walsh headline Pool A with Eva Celbova/sona Novakova, Czech Republic (12), Rebekka Kadijk/Marrit Leenstra, Netherlands (13) and Chiaki Kusuhara/ryo Tokuno, Japan (24).
Adriana and Shelda, the 1999 and 2001 FIVB World Champions and runnerups in 2003 to May and Walsh, are joined in Pool B with Dalixia Fernandez Grasset/Tamara Larrea Peraza, Cuba (11), Daniela Gattelli/Lucilla Perrotta, Italy (14), Leigh-Ann Naidoo/Julia Willand, South Africa (23).
Ana Paula and Pires lead Pool C with Suzanne Lahme/Danja Musch, Germany (10), Vassiliki Arvaniti/Efthalia Koutroumanidou, Greece (15) and Nila Ann Hakedal/Ingrid Torlen, Norway (22). Pires will be seeking her third Olympic medal after winning the gold with Jackie Silva in the 1996 Atlanta Games and capturing the bronze in Sydney 2000 with Adriana Samuel.
McPeak, who also placed fifth in the Atlanta Olympics with Nancy Reno, and Youngs are the featured team in Pool D with Nicole Schnyder-Benoit/Simone Kuhn, Switzerland (9), Guylaine Dumont/Annie Martin, Canada (16) and Kathrine Maaseide/Susanne Glesnes, Norway (21).
Cook and Sanderson will be competing in Pool E with Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau, Germany (8), Lu Wang/Whenhui You, China (17) and the Yanchulova sisters (Lina and Petia, 20).