Beijing, China, June 7, 2011 – Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg Salgado of Brazil and seven other teams advanced to the women’s Main Draw tournament of the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour Beijing Grand Slam after the conclusion of the qualification action here on Tuesday.
Marcia Clara/Carol, who had beaten compatriots Angela Vieira/Liliane Maestrini in Monday’s country-quota and a bye in the first round of the qualification tournament, eliminated Heather Bansley and Elizabeth Maloney from Canada 21-19 and 21-13 in 36 minutes to make the 32-team Main Draw.
The first set was hotly contested, but the Brazilian top seeds of the qualification tournament pulled away from a 14-11 lead and concluded the match with an amazing 7-2 run.
“We did not play as well as yesterday. They were playing good (in the first set), we started playing bad,” said Maria Clara. “My reception was not so good at the beginning and I made a lot of mistakes in side-outs. We don’t know this team, we don’t know how they play. Sometimes it’s hard to play against someone you don’t know. You need to try to see the team, after that it’s OK.”
After two matches in the country-quota and qualification tournament, the Brazilian duo have got used to the climate of the Chinese capital and the sand of the Chaoyang Park, the venue of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
“Hopefully we will play better tomorrow. We have to pay attention, because it’s too hot and too dry, we have to take care of this,” added Maria Clara. “We have already had two games to start the tournament. I think it’s good in one way. We are ready to play here now we are used to the sand. We just need to learn and improve.”
Sydney Olympic champion Natalie Cook of Australia was only one step away from the Main Draw, but she and new partner Tara West were stopped by Madelein Meppelink and Marloes Wesselink of the Netherlands in the second round of the qualification tournament 21-14, 13-21 and 15-12.
Going down easily in the first set, Cook/West fought back bravely to level one set back and went on to take a 4-1 lead in the decisive third set, only to find the Dutch women come from behind to seal the victory at 15-12.
“It’s frustrating not to take the opportunity, because we had a chance in the third set,” said the 36-year-old Cook, who is fighting for her fifth Olympic Games. “Just a little bit inexperienced and a little bit of took the pressure of their serve. It’s disappointing, but we know we can get ready for the next week now.”
“The dream is for London, for my fifth Olympic Games, with a brand new partner. It’s her first time on the FIVB and we have a lot of work to do. But it’s very exciting, l love the sport of beach volleyball.”
The beach volleyball legend is going to retire from the sport after the London Olympic Games. “I am planning my retirement party after the Olympics in London, so one more year to go.”
The other teams victorious in the qualification tournament are Angela Akers/Nicole Branagh of the United States, Cristine Santanna/Andrezza Martins das Chagas from Georgia, Russia’s Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgenia Ukolova, Italian pair Gioria Daniela/Giulia Momoli, Germany’s Karla Borger/Britta Buthe and Mayra Garcia/Candelas Bibiana of Mexico.
Feature Beijing Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the United States and Beijing Olympic bronze medallists Xue Chen and Zhang Xi from China, the women’s Main Draw tournament will start on Wednesday. Thirty-two teams will play in eight groups with round robin format with top three finishers from each group to advance to the 24-team knockout stage.
Kerri Walsh will be reunited with Misty May-Treanor for the first time since the Sanya Open where Misty May-Treanor received a knee injury that forced her out of the following events in Shanghai, China and Myslowice, Poland. Two weeks ago in Myslowice, Walsh teamed up with Brittany Hochevar to claim the seventh place.
Marleen Van Iersel and Sanne Keizer from the Netherlands, who have snatched successive gold medals in Shanghai and Myslowice, are also worth watching while other medal contenders include Larissa/Juliana from Brazil and Jennifer Kessy/April Ross of the United States.
The Chinese capital is welcoming back international beach volleyball for the first time since the 2008 Olympic Games and the inaugural $600,000 Beijing Grand Slam is the third of 12 double-gender events on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, which also includes three single-gender events for women, two single-gender events for men and a special 24-team Olympic test event in London August 9-14.