Gstaad, Switzerland, July 24 2007 - After winning the Pan American Games gold medal this past Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca have returned to SWATCH-FIVB World Tour action “hungrier” for another international title as the US$1-million “Beach Volleyball Bonanza in the Swiss Alps” started here Tuesday.
With a 21-17 and 21-11 win in 35 minutes over 47th-seeded Annik Skrivan/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland, the second-seeded Juliana and Larissa are “eager” to reach the gold medal match again at the SWATCH-FIVB World Championships after placing second in the 2005 event in Berlin where the young Brazilians dropped the title match to Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of United States.
“It was great to represent our country last week in Rio at the PanAm Games,” said Juliana, who turned 24 Sunday. “The competition was very similar with pool play and a single-elimination bracket. It was a good schedule as we only had to play one match a day. The best part was being on top of the podium Saturday with Larissa was receiving a gold medal in front of our family, friends and fans.”
Juliana and Larissa, who have been the top team on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour the past two seasons with 16 gold medals to their credit and over $1-million in earnings for 45 international events, will finish pool play against teams from Latvia and Germany with matches on Wednesday and Thursday.
In addition to winning their group, Juliana and Larissa will be also trying to gain the No. 1-seed for the 32-team elimination bracket as the top finishing team from either Pool A or Pool B will gain the top spot based on match records, set and points ratio.
May-Treanor and Walsh, the reigning Olympic gold medalists and two-time world champions, are currently the top-seeded tandem in the 48-team women’s field for the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships powered by 1to1 energy. The Americans opened play Tuesday with a 21-12 and 21-11 win over 48th-seeded Leigh-Ann Naidoo/Judith Augoustides of South Africa in 32 minutes.
With titles in their last four Gstaad appearances in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 with a gold medal win over Juliana and Larissa for the Swiss Alps “bells”, May-Treanor and Walsh play 25th-seeded compatriots Tyra Turner and Rachel Wacholder Wednesday before concluding pool competition against a Japanese team Thursday.
“It is great to be back in Gstaad,” said Walsh as she started play in her fourth SWATCH-FIVB World Championships with May-Treanor as the pair claimed their first title in 2003 on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. “We have had a lot of success here. It is a beautiful place with great fans and a great organization.”
Tuesday’s biggest upsets were posted by 30th-seeded Antje Roder/Helke Claasen of Germany, 33rd-seeded Efthalia Koutroumanidou/Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece, 41st-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal/Ingrid Torlen of Norway and 44th-seeded Diane Pascua/Heidi Ilustre of the Philippines. With three German teams in Pool F, Roder and Claasen scored a 21-14 and 21-11 win in 32 minutes over 19th-seeded compatriots Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau.
Koutroumanidou and Tsiartsiani, who placed fourth at a SWATCH stop in Marseille this past Saturday, scored a 22-20 and 21-17 Pool J victory over 16th-seeded Jen Boss and April Ross of the United States. The Americans had won a SWATCH grand slam event four weeks ago in Norway where Boss and Ross upset SWATCH tour leaders Jia Tian and Jie Wang of China in the finals.
Tuesday’s “biggest” upsets was produced by the Norwegian and Philippines pair. Pascua and Ilustre scored a 20-22, 21-16 and 15-13 Pool E. victory in 55 minutes over Australia’s Tamsin Barnett and Natalie Cook of Australia. The fifth-seeded Aussies won a SWATCH gold medal at May’s stop in Seoul by upsetting Tian and Wang in the finals. Hakedal and Torlen were 21-17 and 21-14 victors over eighth-seeded Leila Barros and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships also features men’s competition as play continues through the weekend. The women’s semi-finals and finals are set for Saturday followed by the men’s “final four” matches Sunday where Brazilians Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes have returned to defend their title won the day after May-Treanor and Walsh’s success in Berlin.