Lausanne, Switzerland, July 23 2007 - With more money and additional qualifying points for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at stake, 96 of the planet’s best men’s and women’s Beach Volleyball teams begin competing Tuesday in the US$1-million 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships powered by 1tot energy in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad.
With 48 teams in each gender seeking the gold medals, the $60,000 first-place prizes and the 1,000 points for winning the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, the first three days of competition will feature pool play to determine the bracketing for the 32-team single-elimination phases where the women’s semi-finals and medal matches will be played Saturday followed by the men’s final two rounds Sunday.
A total 28 countries have placed teams into the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States.
As has been the case since the start of the international Beach Volleyball circuits in 1987 for men and 1992 for women, teams from Brazil and the United States have dominated the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour this season through the first 10 events for both genders starting in May at Shanghai and through this past weekend in Marseille.
Only Estonia and the Netherlands have broken through for titles on the men’s side with Brazilians wining eight of the 10 gold medals by four different teams, including six-straight titles at SWATCH-FIVB World Tour stops in Portugal, Paris, Norway, Canada, Berlin and Marseille.
Teams from Australia and China have joined pairs from Brazil and the United States in winning the 10 women’s gold medals since May with the tandems from the North and South Americans countries collecting four top podium spots each, including a combined seven-straight titles in Poland, Portugal, Paris, Norway, Canada, Berlin and Marseille.
Multiple Brazilian men’s winners this season are Athens 2004 Olympic and 2003 world champions Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos and Marcio Araujo/Fabio Magalhaes, the reigning SWATCH-FIVB World champions. Also collecting titles for the South American country are Harley Marques/Pedro Salgado and Pedro Cunha/Franco Neto.
Cunha and Franco are the latest Brazilian winners after claming this past week’s stop in Marseille by defeating 2001 SWATCH-FIVB World champions Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde in the finals. With his 16th international gold medal, the 40-year old Franco became the oldest player to win a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event.
The teams of Reinder Nummerdor/Richard Schuil of the Netherlands and Kristjan Kais/Rivo Vesik of Estonia captured men’s gold medals in Bahrain and Croatia, respectively. The titles were the first men’s FIVB crowns for both countries as the Dutch defeated Cunha and Franco for the gold medal in the Arabian Gulf while Kais and Vesik bested Switzerland’s Patrick Heuscher and Sascha Heyer in Croatia.
Prior to Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro’s capturing their second SWATCH gold medal this season in Marseille, Americans had won the previous four FIVB events in Paris, Norway, Canada and Berlin led by three titles for reigning Olympic and two-time world champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
The United States’ Jen Boss and April Ross posted the season’s most “stunning” gold medal finish by winning the Norwegian grand slam in Stavanger after winning country quota and qualifying matches to advance to the Main Draw where the American pair became the lowest seeded team (29) to win a women’s SWATCH event.
Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca, the SWATCH tour points champions from the last two seasons and runners up at the 2005 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Berlin, netted gold medals this year in Poland and Portugal. Also winning FIVB titles this season were Jia Tian/Jie Wang of China and Tamsin Barnett/Natalie Cook of Australia. Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil, who captured the 1999 and 2001 world championship gold medals, will also be competing this week.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships is also the third of eight-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events in Europe through the middle of September. The fifth and final “major” event will be staged in Klagenfurt for the $600,000 Austrian Grand Slam followed by double gender events in Norway, Finland and Russia along with a men’s stop in Poland.