|CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO, June 13, 2004 - Not since 1990 has a player as young as Pedro Cunha has captured a gold medal at a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour "open" event as the young Brazilian teamed with Pará Ferreira to win the men's title here Sunday at the Carolina Open.
Just three days removed from his 21st birthday, Cunha joined Pará in defeating seventh-seeded Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde of Argentina 21-17 and 35-33 in the 58-minute finale of the US$180,000 event. With the win, the 12th-seeded Brazilians shared the $27,000 first-place check while Baracetti and Conde left the stadium splitting $18,000 for second-place.
Brazil's Andre Lima was the youngest player ever to win an "open" SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event by capturing a July 29, 1990 event in Sete, France with Guilherme Marquez. Lima was only five days younger at Cunha at 20 years, 11 months and 29 days.
"The best thing about Pedro is that he listens to every thing I say," said Pará after the match as the Brazilians were playing in their fifth international event together as compared to the Argentineans 40th. "I think he was more nervous in the semi-final than the final. We have good chemistry together. He is a quick learner as we had to change our game plan several times in the finals."
Representing the "young and old" of Brazilian Beach Volleyball, Pará is at the start of his 11th-season on the international tour with nine gold medal finishes, including the 1997 World Championship title when he won the title on his 24th birthday with Guilherme in Los Angeles.
Cunha, who also had Sunday's fastest serve (89.1 km) to win the SWATCH award, had won the men's FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships U-21 championships (2001 and 2003) along with a silver medal in 2002. He placed 17th in his first "open" event last October at the 2003 FIVB World Championships in Rio de Janeiro with Tande Ramos.
Cunha and Pará have now defeated the Argentineans twice this season, including a 21-11, 14-21 and 15-11 victory last month in China. The gold medal match was the 20th-time that the two South American countries have competed for a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour "open" title in 153 events. Brazil now leads the head-to-head match up in finals 12-8.
In the bronze medal match, second-seeded Franco Neto and Tande defeated Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger of the United States 22-20 and 21-19. The Brazilians shared $14,000 for the bronze medal while the Americans split $11,000. Franco and Tande dropped Sunday's second semi-final to Baracetti and Conde after the victorious Brazilians downed Holdren and Metzger 21-15, 15-21 and 15-10.
Presented by ClaxoSmithKline, the Carolina Open was the sixth men's stop on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. The international tour returns to Europe next week for the final four Olympic qualifying events in Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Mallorca.