Women's Olympic Games, Athens GREECE
From 14 August To 24 August 2004

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Sold Out Stadium, Exciting Action Highlight Opening Round of 16 Action
Athens, Greece, August 20, 2004 - The first of two days of opening elimination matches at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games featured "a little of everything" here Friday as the evening session attracted a sold crowd of more than 9,000 Beach Volleyball fans.

With upset victories by teams from Canada and Italy, the elimination of a gold medallist and the excitement of hometown favourites Vasso Karadassiou and Efi Sfyri playing before their adoring fans made the day's women's action memorable.

Karadssiou and Sfyri, Greece's No. 1 team in the Olympics dropped a 21-16 and 21-19 decision to Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires in the final's women's match Friday. Pires is a two-time Olympic medallist with a gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Games and a bronze in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"It was a great match," said Ana Paula. "The arena was great. I was so excited to play with the crowd cheering. I had goose bumps and butterflies in my stomach. We were very focused. When the opponents have a crowd cheering for them like that, the players will perform at a high level. We were really concerned about that."

Upset winners were Daniela Gattelli and Lucilla Perrotta of Italy and Guylaine Dumont and Annie Martin of Canada. The Italians scored a 16-21, 21-17 and 21-19 win in 70 minutes over Suzanne Lahme and Danja Musch of Germany, who had a second-place finish last month in Mallorca.

Dumont and Martin posted their third win in four starts this week by eliminating Dalixia Fernandez Grasset and Tamara Larrea Peraza of Cuba 21-16 and 21-17 in 44 minutes. The Cubans were the 2003 Pan American champions and had placed second earlier this season in Berlin.

In a match featuring Australia's "golden girls" of Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst with their new partners, Cook teamed with Nicole Sanderson to down her ex-team mate and Summer Lochowicz 21-15 and 21-16 in 41 minutes. Pottharst's string of nine-straight Olympic wins was also stopped as she had won the first six matches with Cook and three with Lochowicz.

First-round play in the elimination bracket continues Saturday featuring two teams that have won the last three FIVB World Championships. Top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh, the 2003 world winners, play Tian Jia and Wang Fei of China at 8 p.m.

Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede, the 1999 and 2001 World Champions, play the Yanchulova sisters (Lina and Petia) of Bulgaria at 11 p.m. Adriana and Shelda also won the silver medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games where they dropped the finals to Cook and Pottharst.

Also in action Saturday will be fourth-seeded Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States, who play Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova of the Czech Republic at 5:30 p.m. Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau of Germany face Vasiliki Arvaniti and Efthalia Koutroumanidou of Greece at 10 p.m.

The women's semi-finals are set for Monday with the medal matches the next day as one of the 2000 Sydney winners will see their hopes for a third Olympic Beach Volleyball end Friday afternoon under the sun in Athens.