Sanya, China, April 24, 2011 - Two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh from the United States and defending event champions Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China will lead a strong field into this week's FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour Olympic Bay Sanya Open 2011, which starts on Tuesday.
As Sanya hosts the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour event for the fourth consecutive year, 72 tandems from 28 countries have registered for the first single gender women’s event of the season to vie for a total prize money of $190,000.
Beach volleyball came to Sanya with a particular fascination during the “exceptional” year of 2008. Thanks to the perfect combination of dynamic games and the terrific tropical scene of Sanya, FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour Sanya Open achieved an immediate success in its first edition and has already become a brand for the beautiful beach city in southern China.
The Sanya Open, a double gender event for the first two editions, has witnessed success of three different women’s tandems in the last three years. All entered in this year's field, Jennifer Kessy/April Ross of the United States beat China's Huang Ying/ Xi in the final to capture the inaugural Sanya women's crown in 2008. One year later, Swiss “black horses” Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr emerged as surprise winners over American runners-up Kessy/Ross.
Home players finally got a touch on the trophy in 2011 as Xue Chen and Zhang Xi defeated German team Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig for the gold medal. Kessy/Ross won last year's Sanya bronze medal.
Having the competitions of the Sanya Open held in October for the last three years, the organizers have decided to move the play to late April this year. In this way, the event could avoid any potential issues with the typhoon season and get connected on schedule with the Shanghai Jinshan Open, another FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour event being held in China next week. The date change it makes it much easier for international teams to participate in both events in China on consecutive weeks.
Last Friday, Brazil's Juliana Felisberta/Larissa Franca won the gold medal in the season-opening Brasilia Open in Brazil's capital city. Juliana/Larissa, who have won five of the last FIVB Swatch World Tour season championships, won their 37th FIVB gold medal together by defeating USA's Traenor/Walsh, who are playing together for the first time since they won the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The three-set Brazilian victory in Brasilia snapped the FIVB record 74-match winning streak of May-Treanor/Walsh.
Kessy/Ross won the bronze medal in Brasilia, defeating USA compatriots Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Hanson. In Sanya, Kessy/Ross have won a medal in each year with a gold in 2008, silver in 2009 and a bronze in 2010.
Besides the three previous gold medalists, this year's field in the Sanya Open includes at least one player from all three silver and bronze medalist teams returning. Besides Kessy/Ross, other returning silver medalists are Goller/Ludwig (2009), and China's Ying Huang (2008) who is playing this year with Yuan Yue. Besides Kessy/Ross, other returning bronze medalists are Angie Akers and Nicole Branagh of the United States. Teamed together this year, Akers won the bronze in 2009 with Tyra Turner and Branagh won the bronze with Turner in 2008.
This year’s Sanya Open is also included as a part of the Beach Volleyball Qualification Tournament for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The competition will start on Tuesday with country quota matches. After four days of qualification and main draw action, the final will be staged on Sunday.