Gstaad, Switzerland, July 25 2007 - Almost four years ago on the world-famous Copacabana Beach, South Africa’s Leigh-Ann Naidoo bested Germany's Judith Augoustides in a Beach Volleyball pool play match at the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
Here Wednesday in the beautiful surroundings of this Swiss Alps village, Naidoo and Augoustides teamed to win another pool play match for South Africa as the last seeded pair in the 48-team women’s 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships posted a 21-16 and 23-21 win over 24th-seeded Mika Teru Saiki and Chiaki Kusuhara of Japan.
“If feels great to win a match at the world championships,” said the 31-year old Naidoo, who competed in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with Julia Willand. “This means a lot in validating our worthiness to the people in South Africa that we can be competitive on the world tour. The Japanese team is one of the best teams in the world (ranked 21st on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour) and we proved to ourselves that we can compete at this level.”
Augoustides, who placed ninth with Helke Claasen in the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships despite losing 21-15 and 21-18 to Naidoo and Willand in a pool play match, has been a regular on the South African beach scene by winning events with different players while her current partner was recovering from off-season surgery on her left knee.
“I hope people will now take notice so Leigh-Ann and I can gain some sponsorship dollars and funding from other sources to help our efforts to reach Beijing,” said Augoustides. “However, today’s win is now in the past as we must focus on tomorrow’s match against another top-ranked American team. Our goal is to reach the elimination rounds Friday and need a good showing against the Americans to validate our play today.”
After losing to reigning Olympic and world champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Tuesday morning in the first centre court match, Naidoo and Augoustides end pool play against 25th-seeded Rachel Wacholder and Tyra Turner of the United States. Wacholder and Turner, who defeated the Japanese 21-12 and 21-12, Wednesday will challenge May-Treanor and Walsh in Wednesday’s last centre court match.
Two of Naidoo and Augoustides’ three wins this season have been against Japanese teams as the South Africans gained their country’s first-ever SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Main Draw berth via a qualifier by defeating Hiromi Suzuki and Satoko Urata to earn a “money” round spot three weeks ago in Canada.
Augoustides’ 2003 world championship partner Claasen also won a pool play match Wednesday with Antje Roder to gain the leadership of a group that features three teams from Germany. After scoring a 21-14 and 21-11 win Tuesday over 19th-seeded compatriots Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau, Claasen and Roder clinched their pool by upsetting sixth-seeded German rivals Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig 21-19, 14-21 and 17-15 Wednesday.
The 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, which also features men’s competition where Augoustides’ husband (Casey) is competing for South Africa with Patrick Flisberg, continues through the weekend. The women’s semi-finals and finals are set for Saturday followed by the men’s “final four” matches Sunday.