|SALVADOR, BRAZIL, March 15, 2004 - Two days after the completion of the first event on the 2004 Swatch-FIVB World Tour where the United States tandem of Misty May and Kerri Walsh won the women's US$180,000 Brazilian Open in Fortaleza, the first men's tournament begins here Tuesday with the first of two days of qualifying.
The top-seeded May and Walsh used a "strong" service game here Sunday to defeat Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar of Brazil 21-10 and 21-18 Sunday to win the first Gold Medal in the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener before an overflowing crowd of more than 4,000.
The 45-team men's Qualification Tournament will feature tandems from 25 countries and will be played in front of the Catussaba Resort Hotel. Tuesday's qualifying action will be highlighted by the country quota playoffs for both host Brazil and the United States.
Team's vying for three Brazilian spots in the elimination rounds of the Qualification Tournament are Luizão Correa/Roberto Lopes, Fred Souza/Pedro Brazão, Fabio de Jesus Magalhães/Paulo Emilio Silva, Pedro Cunha/Pará Ferreira, Lula Barbosa/Adriano Garrido, Murilo Teixeira/Thomas Klepper and Marco Freitas/Alex Acco.
Eric Fonoimoana, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Gold Medallists with Dain Blanton, will be teamed with Kevin Wong in the qualifier and will be competing against two other teams from the United States for a spot in the elimination bracket, including Casey Jennings/Matt Fuerbringer and Sean Rosenthal/Larry Witt.
The two-day Qualification Tournament will place the final eight teams in the Main Draw where 24 tandems from 13 countries have already been certified, including 15 of the 16 top-ranked teams from the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour.
Host Brazil had the top two teams on the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour led by Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos and Marciao Araujo/Benjamin Insfran. Emanuel and Ricardo earned $237,000 for 10 events in 2003 with five tournament titles, including the World Championship Gold Medal last October in Rio de Janeiro. Marcio Araujo and Benjamin shared $173,500 for 10 events with three titles.
Blanton and Jeff Nygaard lead the three teams from the United States in the Main Draw along with Dax Holdren/Stein Metzger and Todd Rogers/Sean Scott. Blanton and Nygaard won the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season opener in Greece last June. Holdren and Metzger won the Silver Medal at the 2003 World Championships where they dropped the finals 21-18 and 21-15 to Emanuel and Ricardo, but defeated Marcio Araujo and Benjamin in the semi-finals 21-19 and 21-14.
Switzerland had the third and fourth ranked teams on the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour as both teams placed fifth in the Rio World Championships. The Laciga brothers (Martin and Paul) had one Silver Medal finish last season with $103,500 in earnings. Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel won $90,000 in 2003 with two Bronze Medal placements.
Following the Salvador event, the men's SWATCH-FIVB World Tour continues with a stop next week in Cape Town, South Africa (March 24-28). Other Olympic qualifying events prior July 11 will be in China, Serbia and Montenegro, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Canada.