|BERLIN, GERMANY, June 22, 2004 - For Ulrike Schmidt, her win here Tuesday morning with Antje Roder in the country quota rounds for Germany brought back "special" memories for her as she returns to international Beach Volleyball competition for this week's US$600,000 Smart Grand Slam.
Seeded 35th in the 36-team women's Qualification Tournament to help determine nine spots in this week's SWATCH-FIVB World event on the sand courts at the Schlossplatz, Schmidt and Roder scored a 21-15 and 21-18 win over 34th-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Maria Kleefisch to advance to Tuesday afternoon's elimination rounds.
A 2000 Beach Volleyball Olympian for Germany, Schmidt and Roder must win two matches Tuesday afternoon to advance to Wednesday's opening rounds in the 32-team Main Draw. The German's first elimination match Tuesday will be against second-seeded Mayra Garcia and Hilda Gaxiola of Mexico.
The winner of the Germany/Mexico match plays either 16th-seeded Barbara Hansel and Sara Montagnolli of Austria or 20th-seeded Mika Teru Saiki and Satoko Urata of Japan for a spot in the Main Draw. Gaxiola and Teru Saiki were also 2000 Beach Volleyball Olympians.
Schmidt's "special" memories were for her fourth-place finish with Gudi Staub in the 2000 Schlossplatz event on the international tour. The "final four" was Schmidt and Staub's best-ever placement on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour and it also marked the highest finish by a German team in the two previous Berlin international stops for women.
"The 1999 and 2000 seasons were special times for me," said Schmidt, who is playing in her first SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event since 2002 when she placed 25th in Austria with Sara Goller. "The fourth-place finish helped Gudi and I qualify for the Olympic Games as Germany's top team. Playing in the Olympics and being a part of the Sydney Games was exciting."
Following the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Schmidt played part of the 2001 and 2002 season with four different partners after competing in her first 25 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events with Staub. She has been playing on the German domestic tour since the start of the 2003 season.
"When Gudi retired to start a family, I decided to play again internationally," Schmidt added, "but three of my partners suffered knee injuries. I quit travelling internationally and concentrated on playing on the German tour along with getting involved with sports management. I was feeling unlucky when all my partners were getting hurt."
Schmidt does not know how she'll do with Roder this week, "but we'll give in a try. Antje played her last year and did not advance out of the country round. I did not play in Berlin last season, so we are excited that we both got a win. I hear that the tour is much-tougher now and that the qualifiers are more pressured-packed now due to single-elimination."
Also advancing from the country quota round Tuesday was another German team (Frederike Fischer/Sandra Piasecki) along with tandems from Brazil (Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca) and the United States (Nancy Mason).
Host Germany has already placed four teams in the Main Draw. 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.