Women's competition, Milan
From 1 September To 5 September 2004

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Beach Volleyball's "Sister Act" at Alice Italian Open
Milan, Italy, September 3, 2004 - "You know, there are three sets of sisters playing today," is how Lina Yanchulova approached a friend at dinner next to the Arco della Pace (Arc of Peace) - Piazza Sempione Centre Court here Friday.

"I wonder if you will see these three sets of sisters playing at the 2008 Olympic Games," said the 29-year old Bulgaria Beach Volleyball standout, who is playing this weekend with her 26-year old sister Petia in the US$180,000 Alice Italian Open.

Led by the Yanchulovas, who have played in the last two Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens, all three sets of sisters won matches Friday during the opening rounds of the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event. And, all three sets of sisters have won FIVB-sanctioned challenger or satellite events during their international careers together.

However, the Tychnovas (Katrina, 21 and Markita, 23) of the Czech Republic were eliminated by winning only once in three tries in the double-elimination event. After losing to top-seeded Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede, the Tychnovas eliminated Mexican Olympians Mayra Garcia and Hilda Gaxiola before being ousted by Norwegian Olympians Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen.

The Yanchulovas and the soon-to-be 21-year old Nystrom twins (Emilie and Ericka) of Finland posted 2-1 marks to advance to Saturday's play where they play teams from Australia and Greece, respectively. Both "sister acts" had to win three-setters in their final matches Friday.

The Yanchulovas, who placed ninth in Athens, out-lasted Inguna Minusa and Inga Pulina of Latvia 21-16, 11-21 and 20-18 while the Nystroms ralled from a 21-8 setback in the first set against Barbara Hansel and Chrisi Gschweidl of Austria to score a 21-18 and 15-8 victory.

The Bulgarians play Australian Olympians Kerri Pottharst and Nicole Sanderson Saturday afternoon before the Nystroms challenge Greek Olympians Vasso Karadassiou and Efi Sfyri. While the Greeks placed ninth in Athens, Pottharst and Sandeson were playing with different partners.

Sanderson teamed with Natalie Cook to place fourth while Pottharst and Summer Lochowicz were ninth. Although attending this week's event, Cook is not playing due to pending right shoulder surgery that slowed her in the bronze medal match against Americans Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs.

Pottharst, who won the Olympic gold medal with Cook at the Sydney 2000 Games after netting the bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, and Sanderson won two of three matches, including a 16-23, 23-21 and 15-10 win in their final match Friday over Japanese Olympians Mika Saiki and Chiaki Kusuhara. Saiki was fourth in Sydney while Kusuhara was 17th in Athens with Ryo Tokuno.

Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, 28 matches will be played to determine the "final four" pairings. Sunday's schedule includes both the semi-final and medal matches as the winning team will share the $27,000 first-place prize.