Lausanne, Switzerland, April 14, 2011 – A combined total of 22 men's and women's teams from the host country are awaiting the start of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour at the Brasilia Open, all hoping that the Brazilian sand continues to produce golden dividends.
In a country filled with superstars on the beach, helping lead the women is Juliana Felisberta Silva, while a pair of legends in the sport – Emanuel Rego and Harley Marques – head the list of 11 Brazilian men's teams.
Juliana competes with her multi-talented teammate Larissa Franca while the veteran duo Emanuel and Harley are paired with rising stars Alison Cerutti and Thiago Santos Barbosa respectively.
This year's FIVB Swatch World Tour starts in Brasília for the third straight year with the women's competition running from Sunday through to next Friday and the men's tournament from Monday to Saturday.
For the first of 12 double-gender events on the 2011 schedule, a total of 80 men's and 64 women's teams from 36 countries have officially entered to compete for the US$380,000 purse in Brasilia, which will be celebrating its 51st anniversary as the nation's capital next Thursday. The action takes place on the Esplanada dos Ministerios in Quadrante 1.
This will be the 33rd men's and 28th women's World Tour event held in Brazil. Statistically, the dominance by the Brazilian teams has been impressive, with men's teams from the host country having captured 58 of the 96 total medals in 32 events and their female counterparts winning an even more staggering 50 of the 81 total medals awarded in 27 previous events.
A contributing factor to their success has been the fact that several events on the Brazilian Tour are always held prior to the World Tour, which has opened in Brazil 12 times in the 24-year history of the tour for men and eight times in 19 seasons for women. In the last two season-openers in Brasilia, Brazil has captured five of six men's medals and three of six women's.
The top women's team heading into the 2011 campaign are Brazil's reigning World Tour champions Juliana and Larissa, who are the all-time FIVB career gold-medal winners for women with 36. In 2010, Juliana/Larissa combined to win seven gold medals, having previously captured the season title in 2009 with an FIVB-record eight gold medals. Juliana/Larissa won the World Tour crown in five of the last six years. They have also won the gold medal in the last three FIVB season-openers and in five of the last six years.
"The FIVB Swatch World Tour is my favourite time of year," said Juliana, who has earned US$1,050,975 in her FIVB career and has final-four finishes in 70 of 84 tournaments while teaming up with Larissa. "Every year, Larissa and I make our preparation focused on the World Tour. We travel across the world and play against the best teams.
"Teams from Brazil have an advantage early in the international season because we are able to play several national tournaments before the World Tour starts while most of the other teams are only training. We have had good results on our national tour and we will start the World Tour with huge confidence."
Juliana is also excited about the return of the great American team of Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh, the two-time Olympic champions who have not played together on the World Tour since winning the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal. "I'm very glad they are back. Their presence will raise the level of the tournaments. Playing against them will be our biggest challenge this season. Even if they haven't played together for some time, they will always be a great team and tough rivals."
On the men's side, Emanuel, who turned 38 on April 15, is a four-time Olympian with 69 FIVB gold medals along with US$1,978,035 in FIVB career earnings. Emanuel has played 12 FIVB tournaments with Alison, 25, and together the duo have collected eight final-four appearances and seven medals.
"Each pre-Olympic season has been tougher than the previous one and I think that it will happen again in 2011," said Emanuel, the World Tour leader for earnings and gold medals who has also won five season-openers with four different partners in his 18-year career.
"In 2007 and 2008 we had a very competitive Olympic qualification process and I think that now all the teams know much better how to face it. Our preparation for this international season in Brazil was exactly as we expected. We played well on the Brazilian national tour and reached the level we planned before the start of the FIVB Swatch World Tour."
Harley, 36, who has 16 FIVB gold medals and finished eighth last year after winning the tour title in 2010 with Pedro Salgado, will this year partner Thiago, 28, who finished 14th last year with Pedro Cunha. The two Pedros are playing together this season.
"We want to win an Olympic spot and it is very important to start the international season with a good result, especially in Brasilia, my home town," said Harley, who has 45 final-four finishes, 33 medals and US$699,162.50 in career earnings in his 14-year FIVB international career.
"It will be a tough season, especially for Brazilian teams as we have five duos playing at the same level and only three can start the tournaments in the main draw," he added. "We are reaching our best physical shape right now. We won an event on the South American tour and that gives us a lot of confidence to start the international season."
USA's Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, the reigning World Tour champions and last year's winners in Brazil, are back along with Brazil's other men's top 10 teams from the 2010 season: Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (sixth) and Benjamin Insfran/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (seventh).