Women's competition, Mallorca
From 6 July To 10 July 2004

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Aussies Compete for Olympic Spot
SANTA PONSA, MALLORCA, July 8, 2004 - The competition for Australia's second women's spot in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games is getting closer to being decided as both teams seeking the berth each won a pair of matches here Thursday during the opening rounds of the US$360,000 Mallorca Open.

If both the Australian teams of Angela Clarke/Kylie Gerlic and Summer Lochowicz/Kerri Pottharst win their opening matches Friday morning, they could face each other later in the day in what could determine the final outcome for the country's No. 2 spot behind Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson.

But first, both teams have to win their first match Friday in the third-round of the winner's bracket in the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event. The eighth-seeded Clarke and Gerlic play top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil while the fourth-seeded Lochowicz and Pottharst face fifth-seeded Andrea Ahmann and Jana Vollmer of Germany.

For Pottharst, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Beach Volleyball gold medallist with Cook, and Lochowicz, the women's Mallorca Open is a blessing since they would have not played in the required eight events together to qualify for the Athens competition.

Originally scheduled as a men's event in September, the Mallorca Open was changed to a mixed gender stop to increase the number of Olympic qualifying events on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour to eight for women and 10 for men.

Both Australian teams, who are now guaranteed ninth-place finishes this week, have improved their Olympic qualifying point totals. By playing in their eighth SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event this year, Pottharst and Lochowicz now have 1,176 Olympic qualifying points entering Friday's play.

Clarke and Gerlic maintain a 16-point lead over their Aussie rivals as they erased a 60-point finish from their best eight placements and added an additional 84 points to improve their standing to 1,192 points. The bottom-line, Pottharst and Lochowicz must finish ahead of Clarke and Gerlic this weekend.

Part of the fifth-ranked team on the Olympic qualifying list with 2,750 points, Cook is not competing for the second-straight week due to her right shoulder problems. She and Sanderson, who saw her bid for the Sydney Games disappear due to a June 2000 knee surgery, are not expected to compete again on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour until Austria later this month.

The women's Mallorca Open Main Draw continues Friday with 18 more matches that will determine the final four teams for Saturday's semi-finals. The semi-final winners will compete Saturday afternoon for the gold medal with the victors sharing the $27,000 first-place prize.

The fourth of five-straight mixed gender events, the Mallorca Open concluded men's qualifying Thursday with the Main Draw beginning Friday and the finals Sunday. After the Mallorca spot, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour concludes the string of mixed gender events with the annual stop in Marseille, France (July 13-18).