Guarujà, Brazil, September 20, 2008 - Playing without Juliana Felisberta Silva as her partner in a SWATCH FIVB World Tour event for the first time since March 2004, Larissa Franca captured her 22nd international women's Beach Volleyball gold medal here Saturday morning by winning the US$350,000 KIA Open presented by Banco do Brasil with Vivian Cunha.
Seeded 14th in the competition, Larissa and Vivian rebounded from a Thursday afternoon setback to win their next three KIA Open matches to share the $28,000 first-place prize after scoring a 21-13, 29-27 gold-medal win in 49 minutes over 12th-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Shaylyn Bede.
The All-Brazilian finale highlighted a successful week for the women from the South American country as top-seeded Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly won the bronze-medal match by defeating the second-seeded Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) 21-17, 21-18) in 37 minutes.
With all four teams from Brazil competing in Friday afternoon's semi-finals, the host country for the KIA Open was guaranteed a sweep of the SWATCH FIVB World Tour podium for the 17th time since the start of the women’s international tour in August 1992. Brazil also occupied all four semi-final spots for the third time in women’s tour history.
“I am very fortunate that I played with such a great partner like Juliana,” said the 26-year-old Larissa, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the KIA Open. “I would not be the player that I am without her help and support the last five years. Despite not being here, Juliana played a big part in this victory today. I dedicate this win to her for her friendship and partnership.’
The SWATCH FIVB World Tour points champion with Larissa the last three seasons, Juliana suffered a right knee injury at June’s Paris Grand Slam event. After six weeks of rehab, Juliana played at the start of August in Austria where she and Larissa placed fifth after forfeiting their final match of the Klagenfurt competition.
Two days (August 7) before the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Juliana withdrew and had knee surgery several days later in Rio de Janeiro. Ana Paula replaced Juliana as Larissa’s partner for the Summer Games and the Brazilians placed fifth after being eliminated by Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
While Larissa was competing in her 36th SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold-medal match, the 28-year-old Vivian was playing in her first “open” title contest in only her second start. Previously, she has medaled with Angela Vieira last year at FIVB Challenger/Satellite events in China (gold) and Italy (bronze).
“I am thrilled to share this victory with such a great player like Larissa,” said Vivian, who failed to qualify for last year’s Brazilian stop on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour in Fortaleza with Vieira. “Juliana has been on our minds all week and we are all hoping for her successful recovery. It is great to win my first SWATCH title here in Brazil before family and friends.’
For placing second on the Praia da Enseada, Agatha and Shaylyn split $19,500 in their first SWATCH “final four” appearance in 27 FIVB events together. Shelda and Ana Paula, who clinched the SWATCH FIVB World Tour points title with the bronze-medal win, shared $14,000 for third place while the Salgados collected $10,500.
The KIA Open men’s semi-finals contests were played after the women’s finale with two teams each from Brazil and Germany advancing to the "final four." The men’s podium placement matches will be played Sunday morning.