|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 20, 2004 - After winning their seventh-straight title on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour last week in Switzerland, Misty May and Kerri Walsh of the United States lead the world's top women's Beach Volleyball team into this week's Smart Grand Slam.
The Schlossplatz hosts a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour stop for the 10-straight year with this week's event being 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 city where a "downtown" beach has been created.
The US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam starts Tuesday for the women with the first of two days of qualifying to determine the final eight entries into the Main Draw. The women's Main Draw starts Thursday and concludes Saturday when the final two teams compete for the $43,000 first-place prize.
The Smart Grand Slam is the sixth women's event on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour after opening stops in Brazil, Greece, China, Japan and Switzerland. May and Walsh have won all three of the international events they have entered in this year, including titles in Brazil and Greece.
The United States' Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs won the China stop while Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil captured the Japanese crown. Both teams have been defeated by May and Walsh in finals with Adriana and Shelda losing gold medal matches in Brazil and Switzerland. McPeak and Youngs dropped the Greek finale to their American rivals.
May and Walsh, the FIVB World Champions after defeating Adriana and Shelda in the finals last October in Rio de Janeiro, have also won 46-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour matches. Brazil's Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires were the last team to defeat the Americans internationally in the finals of the 2003 Norwegian Open in Stavanger.
Prior to the Norway stop last season, May and Walsh placed fourth in Berlin where they also dropped a pair of "final four" matches to the Brazilians. Since the Germany and Norway stops last season, May and Walsh have combined to defeat the Adriana/Shelda (six) and Ana Paula/Pires (4) 10-straight times.
This week's event is also the third-time that a women's SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event has been staged in the Schlossplatz. May and McPeak teamed to win the 2000 event. Ana Paula and Pires were the 2003 winners when they defeated McPeak and Elaine Youngs for the gold medal.
Germany has already placed four teams in the Main Draw with another eight expected to play in the Qualification Tournament. The teams of Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau and Susanne Lahme/Danja Müsch are the top German teams as they are expected to compete in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Other teams from the host country in the Main Draw are Andrea Ahmann/Jana Vollmer and Helke Claasen/Martina Stoof.
PAST BERLIN WOMEN'S PODIUM PLACEMENTS
Year - Gold Medal / Silver Medal / Bronze Medal
2000 - Holly McPeak/Misty May, United States / Tania Gooley/Pauline Manser, Australia / Mia Teru Saiki/Yukiko Takahashi, Japan
2003 - Ana Paula Connelly/Sandra Pires, Brazil / Holly McPeak/Elaine Youngs, United States / Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede, Brazil