|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 21, 2004 - Will the Schlossplatz finally be the place where Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckerman of Germany break through on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour and finally achieve a gold medal on the international men's Beach Volleyball circuit?
The Schlossplatz hosts its ninth men's international event since 1995 as this week's US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam is the second of five-straight mixed gender events on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. Event organizers have transported more than 1,500 tons of sand into the Schlossplatz, one of the most historic parts of the city where a "downtown" beach has been created.
The reigning European Champions after capturing when the title before the home fans in Timmendorfer Strand two weeks ago, Dieckmann and Reckerman are playing at a "level of consistency" on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour like no other team except by the top-ranked Brazil tandem of Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos.
Despite posting "final four" finishes in each of their four starts this season the SATCH-FIVB World Tour, Dieckmann and Reckermann have failed to snare an event title after placing second twice in Serbia and Switzerland, and fourth in Brazil and Portugal. The Germans missed international starts this season in South Africa and China due to Dieckmann's abdominal strain injury.
"Outside of Emanuel and Ricardo, the Germans are playing the most consistent volleyball on the SWATCH tour," said Stefan Kobel of Switzerland after his win Sunday with Patrick Heuscher over Dieckmann and Reckerman in the Gstaad finale. "Prior to Sunday, we had never beaten them on the sand. They just keep coming at you and never give up."
The Germans have now competed in five FIVB gold medal matches since the start of the 2003 season and have not been able to secure a title. "Obviously, we are playing very good," said Dieckmann, who teamed with Reckerman to place third in Berlin in 2002 for Germany's best showing on the Schlossplatz. Despite our lack of a title internationally, I still like our chances each week. We'll keep working on our game until we win it all"
Sunday's gold medal match in the Swiss community marked only the second-time in 154 "open" SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events that two European teams had played for an international title. The only other time was 128 events ago when Jan Kvalheim and Björn Maaseide of Norway defeated French rivals J. P. Jodard and Christian Peniguad in 1994 on their home sand in Marseille.
The Smart Grand Slam for the men starts Wednesday with qualifying to determine the final eight entries into the Main Draw. The eighth stop on the men's 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Man Draw starts Thursday and concludes Sunday when the final two teams compete for the $43,000 first-place prize.
Part of the Olympic Beach Volleyball process, the Smart Grand Slam will be the second of four-straight events in Europe before the July 11 deadline to determine the 24 men's teams for the 2004 Athens Games in August. The process concludes with events in Norway and Spain.
PAST SMART GRAND SLAM MEN'S "PODIUM" TEAMS
Year - Gold Medal / Silver Medal / Bronze Medal
1995 - Jan Kvalheim/Björn Maaseide, Norway / Franco Neto/Roberto Lopes, Brazil / Emanuel Rego/Zé Marco de Melo, Brazil
1996 - John Child/Mark Heese, Canada / Guilherme Marques/Pará Ferreira, Brazil / Julien Prosser/Lee Zahner, Australia
1997 - Emanuel/Zé Marco, Brazil / Guilherme/Pará, Brazil / Kvalheim/Maaseide, Norway
1998 - Jorre Kjemperud/Vegard Hoidalen, Norway / Guilherme/Pará, Brazil / Ricardo SantosZé Marco, Brazil
1999 - Ricardo/Zé Marco, Brazil / Martin Laciga/Paul Laciga, Switzerland / Javier Bosma/Fabio Diez, Spain
2001 - Prosser/Zahner, Australia / M. Laciga/P. Laciga, Switzerland / Emanuel/Tande Ramos, Brazil
2002 - Harley Marques/Pará, Brazil / Mariano Baracetti/Martin Conde, Argentina / Markus Dieckmann/Jonas Reckermann, Germany
2003 - Franco/Harley, Brazil / Baracetti/Conde, Argentina / Emanuel/Ricardo, Brazil