Acapulco, Mexico, October 28, 2006 - Making it three wins in a row over the reigning Olympic champions, Americans Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal slipped past Brazil’s Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos in three sets here Saturday afternoon to earn the gold medal in the finals of the US$400,000 Corona Open on the Playa Tamarindos.
Seeded fourth in the 32-team Main Draw in the men’s season finale on the 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, Gibb and Rosenthal posted a 19-21, 21-16 and 15-13 win in 73 minutes over the second-seeded Brazilians to share the $32,000 first-place prize enroute to their first international gold medal finish in six Beach Volleyball starts this season.
Prior to Saturday’s gold medal victory, Gibb and Rosenthal had posted a pair of semi-final wins over Emanuel and Ricardo in Europe and South America in their only two other meetings with the Brazilians. After defeating Emanuel and Ricardo in the Paris and Vitoria semi-finals, Gibb and Rosenthal finished second in both events, losing to teams from Brazil and Germany.
“I thought the key today was our steady play today,” said the 30-year old Gibb, who was the 2005 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour co-rookie of the year with Matteo Varnier of Italy. “We were fortunate to get a lucky roll on a crucial point at the end of the third set along with the Brazilians making a couple hitting errors. It’s good to end the season with a win. It will make the upcoming holidays and off-season very enjoyable.”
Rosenthal, who is a leading candidate for the 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour co-rookie of the year award, was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the Corona Open. “I am honored,” said the 26-year old Rosenthal. “However, it takes two players to win a match and Jake is one of the best players at the net. This is terrific and I’m almost speechless.”
Despite the setback in their 33rd SWATCH-FIVB World Tour gold medal match since forming their partnership at the end of the 2002 season, Emanuel and Ricardo shared the $22,000 second-place prize. Emanuel was also honored as the SWATCH most outstanding player for 2006 and he and Ricardo did not finish lower than fourth in any of their SWATCH starts this year with five gold medals.
In addition, Emanuel and Ricardo established a single-season earnings mark for men with $355,000 to better the previous best by a men’s team of $332,000 by Emanuel and his Atlanta Olympic partner Ze Marco de Melo in 1996. Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa hold the overall record as the Brazilian women totaled $409,750 in 2005.
“It has been a long season,” said the 33-year old Emanuel. “We still have two more domestic events to play when we return home, but those events don’t involve a lot of travel as compared to the international tour. It was tough playing conditions this week and the Americans appear to have our number right now. We’ll be anxious to meet them again in 2007 when qualifying for the Beijing Olympics begins next spring.”
In the bronze medal match, fifth-seeded Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers gave the United States its first of three Beach Volleyball medals this weekend by defeating sixth-seeded Penggen Wu and Linyin Xu of China 21-14 and 22-20 in 47 minutes to share $16,000 for third-place. The Chinese posted their second-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour “final four” finish to split $12,000 for fourth-place.
The 10th of 10 double gender events on the 2006 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, the Corona Open concludes Sunday for women as the United States’ Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh face Renata Ribeiro and Talita Antunes of Brazil for the gold medal. The women’s SWATCH calendar ends next week in Phuket, Thailand.