Kristiansand, Norway, August 11, 2007 - With the top-ranked women’s team on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour competing for third-place in the US$350,000 Otera Open, the next two Beach Volleyball tandems on the list will vie for the inaugural gold medal on the centre court sand in this southern Norwegian resort town.
Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil will face China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang for the 11th time on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour for the Otera Open title after both teams won semi-final matches here Saturday morning to advance to their second international title meeting against each other.
It will be the seventh-time the two countries have competed for a SWATCH women’s gold medal with Brazil holding a 4-2 edge, including Juliana and Larissa’s 21-11 and 21-17 title win over Xue and Zhang 54 weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Seeded first in the 13th women’s event on the 2007 SWATCH calendar, Juliana and Larissa advanced to their 29th FIVB gold medal match with a 22-20, 26-28 and 15-10 win in 67 minutes over third-seeded Jia Tian and Jie Wang of China, the top-ranked team on the international list. The Brazilians, who have a 16-12 gold medal match mark, now hold a 6-4 edge in the series with Tian and Wang.
The second-seeded Xue and Chen opened the semi-final schedule Saturday with a 21-17 and 21-19 victory in 41 minutes over fourth-seeded Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau for the Chinese pair’s fifth-straight win over the Germans. Xue and Chen will be competing in their seventh SWATCH-FIVB World Tour gold medal match together with a 2-4 record as both wins were against Tian and Wang last season in Shanghai and Thailand.
“We are excited to reach the gold medal match after losing the past two weeks in the semi-finals,” said the 18-year old Chen, the youngest player ever to win an international Beach Volleyball event. “We now have a string of six-straight top-five finishes, so our play has been consistent.”
After “sandwiching” a fifth-place finish in Berlin between silver medals finishes in Montreal and Marseille, Xue and Zhang have placed fourth the past two weeks in Switzerland at the Gstaad world championships and in Austria at the Klagenfurt grand slam. In both events, the Chinese dropped semi-final matches to the reigning Olympic and world champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States.
“Both our matches with the Americans were tight as we had chances to win sets,” said the 22-year old Zhang. “We are getting there, but today we face another strong challenge against a very competitive team. The Brazilians are aggressive and very powerful on the attack. We have to side out and not let the Brazilians overwhelm us with their pressure.”
Saturday’s winning team will share the $30,000 first-place prize with the silver medal finisher splitting $20,000. The 10th of 13 double gender events this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Otera Open concludes Sunday with the men’s semi-finals and medal matches.