|When you talk about beach volleyball, it usually starts with discussions about "hot beds" of competition at the beaches in Southern California or on Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. To the causal observer, the top players must come from the United States or Brazil.
Yes, Brazil did have three of the top-ranked teams on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour in 2003, but the Switzerland matched the South American country with three pairs listed among the top 10 tandems on the international beach volleyball tour.
"After being the first Swiss team to break through on the beach, it is great to see our country with three highly-ranked pairs," said Paul Laciga. "I think our success proved to other teams from Switzerland that they can compete internationally and make some money on the beach."
The older of the two Lacigas, Paul looks forward to returning to Olympics after placing fifth in 2000 at Sydney. "Despite not having a lot of podium placements last season, we did have some quality finishes last season," said Paul. "We played well in Sydney, except for five minutes over very bad volleyball that costs us a chance for a medal."
At the end of the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the Laciga brothers were ranked third internationally behind two teams from Brazil and ahead of Swiss rivals Stefan Kobel and Patrick Heuscher. Sascha Heyer and Markus Egger is the third team from Switzerland ranked at No. 10. All three Swiss teams won their opening matches Thursday in the US180,000 Brazilian Open.
"I think people are surprised to learn that Switzerland has three top-ranked beach volleyball teams in the world," said Heyer. "And don't forget about a fifth-place finish last week in the Swiss team in the FIVB women's opener in Fortaleza. "We are proud that we have been able to make a name for Swiss volleyball players internationally. Our country has not been that competitive indoors, but we have gained a lot of respect on the beach."