Women's competition, Osaka
From 2 June To 6 June 2004

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Germans Continue Olympic Qualifying Process
OSAKA, JAPAN, June 3, 2004 - Led by top-seeded Andrea Ahmann and Jana Vollmer of Germany, eight teams earned Main Draw berths here Thursday on the Tannowa Beach courts for this week's women's $US180,000 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event.

Joining the Germans in advancing from the 31-team Qualification Tournament to the Main Draw for the fourth international pro beach volleyball event this season were two teams from China and one tandem each from Canada, Cuba, France, Italy and Norway.

Ahmann and Vollmer, who are the third-ranked team on the German Olympic Qualifying list behind country rivals Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau and Suzanne Lahme/Danja Musch, advanced to the Main Draw by defeating the 17th-seeded Nystrom twins (Emilie and Erika) from Finland 21-14 and 21-14 Thursday morning. The Germans also defeated the Nystroms last week in a China qualifier.

"We played well today against an up-and-coming team on the World Tour," said Ahmann, the wife of Jorg Ahmann, a bronze medallists in the men's beach volleyball competition at the Sydney 2000 Games. "Qualifiers are tough since they are single-elimination and you can not make a lot of mistakes on the sand and expect to advance."

Ahmann and Vollmer trail Lahme and Musch by 370 points with four FIVB events left in the qualifying process for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, including a grand slam stop in Berlin June 22-26. "The odds are stacked against us," Vollmer added, "but at least we know we are keeping the pressure on the other German team. The competition is healthy as we know that we are part of the process and still have a chance for Athens."

In addition to the remaining FIVB Olympic-qualifying events, Ahmann and Vollmer have a chance to improve their Athens point totals next week at the European Championships in Germany. However, the pair must win the title since only one of their two CEV events count during the Olympic qualifying process. Ahmann and Vollmer placed second in the European Championships after losing to Pohl and Rau in the finals.

The Chinese teams earning Main Draw berths Thursday were and Ji Linjun/Zhang Xi and Xue Chen/Ren Zhengqing. Other tandems advancing were Milagros Crespo/Imara Esteves Ribalta of Cuba, Nila Ann Hakedal/Ingrid Torlen of Norway, Ethel-Julie Arjona/Virginie Kadjo of France, Laura Bruschini/Annamaria Solazzi of Italy and Gabriele Jobst/Patricia Stragliotto of Canada.

The double-elimination Main Draw starts Friday as the final 32 teams compete for the $27,000 first-place prize in Sunday's finale. The SWATCH-FIVB World Tour departs Osaka for a weekend off before the final three Olympic qualifying events in Switzerland, Germany and Norway. The beach volleyball competition at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games will be played August 14-25.