Stare Jablonki, Poland, June 7, 2008 - The most experienced team on the women's SWATCH FIVB World Tour won the gold-medal match here Saturday afternoon before a capacity crowd of more than 4,000 at the Hotel Anders centre court as Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly teamed to capture the top podium spot at the US$350,000 GE Money Bank Mazury Open.
Seeded second in the sixth women's SWATCH stop in 2008, Shelda and Ana Paula posted a 21-19 and 21-16 victory in 39 minutes over sixth-seeded Tyra Turner and Rachel Wacholder of the United States to share the $28,000 first-place prize along with adding 600 points to their qualifying total for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
In winning her ninth SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal with her fifth different partner, the 36-year-old Ana Paula praised the performance of her 35-year-old partner, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the GE Money Bank Mazury Open.
"Shelda is such a great player that it makes it easy playing with her," said Ana Paula, who also won a SWATCH crown with Shelda's sister (Shaylyn) at a 2005 FIVB event in Osaka, Japan. "Obviously, our experience helps us a lot as the younger players our better athletes. Shelda is such a competitor and that makes me work even harder to win each match."
Saturday's gold-medal win was the second of the weekend for Shelda and Ana Paula over the Americans as the Brazilians posted a 21-16 and 21-18 win in 41 minutes Friday afternoon in the fourth round of the winner's bracket. Despite the setback, Turner and Wacholder shared $19,500 for their best FIVB placement in 12 SWATCH starts along with earning 540 points for second place.
As for Olympic qualifying, Shelda and Ana Paula have compiled 3,000 Beijing points for only seven SWATCH FIVB World Tour starts since forming their partnership last November for an event in Thailand. To gain Olympic consideration, a team must post eight SWATCH finishes from May 2007 through July 20, 2008.
"We still have a long way to go to catch Talita (Antunes) and Renata (Ribeiro) for the second Brazilian spot in Beijing, but today's win really helps us as we head into four-straight FIVB Grand Slam events starting next week in Berlin," said Ana Paula, who also won SWATCH gold medals with Sandra Pires (5), Monica Rodrigues (1) and Leila Barros (1).
Talita and Renata, who dropped a 21-19 and 21-13 decision to Shelda and Ana Paula in Saturday's second semi-final match, have compiled 4,320 points for their best eight SWATCH FIVB World Tour finishes. While Shelda and Ana Paula will gain 80 points with every win in Berlin next week, Talita and Renata must place fourth or higher to improve their Olympic standing.
Turner and Wacholder, who advanced to the GE Money Bank Mazury Open finale with a 21-19 and 21-16 win in 46 minutes over the 12th-seeded Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara), are currently the fourth-ranked American team on the Beijing list with 3,100 points. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the reigning Olympic champions, have 5,840 points with Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs sixth overall (4,140 points).
Sunday's finale was the 73rd time Brazil and the United States have competed for a SWATCH FIVB World Tour women's gold medal. The Americans have won 43 times after Branagh and Youngs defeated Talita and Renata for the top spot on the Spanish podium last week in Barcelona.
In the bronze-medal match, Carolina and Maria Clara won their second SWATCH medal by defeating the top-seeded Talita and Renata 21-19 and 22-20 in 46 minutes. Bronze-medal winners at a 2005 stop in South Africa, Carolina and Maria Clara shared $14,000 for third place while Talita and Renata split $10,500. The Salgados also defeated Taltia and Renata Friday afternoon 21-15, 23-25 and 15-12 in 66 minutes.