Stavanger, Norway, June 29, 2011—Battling through a steady downpour of Norwegian rain until late afternoon and some of the world’s top beach volleyball players at the Vaagen Harbour venue, eight rain-soaked teams from eight countries methodically and doggedly advanced from a 32-team qualification tournament Wednesday to the men’s 32-team main draw Thursday at the $600,000 FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011. The world’s top beach volleyball tandems, all competing in the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour are back in Norway as the double-gender event marks the 13th consecutive visit by the world tour with Stavanger hosting its first men’s event in 1999 and its first women’s event in 2002.
With Canada the only country with two teams still in contention in the second and final round of the qualification tournament, the eight countries advancing teams following two victories each in the qualification rounds Wednesday to earn spots in the men’s main draw in Stavanger were: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy and New Zealand.
The 32-team men’s main draw that will start on Thursday with two days of round-robin pool play, with each team playing three matches over the two days to determine the final 24 teams that will head to the single-elimination bracket play on Saturday with the semifinals and medal matches to be played on Sunday.
Thursday was a rainy day of chilling upsets as only two of the top 10-seeded qualification teams are among the eight teams that advanced to the men’s main draw.
Australia’s 18th-seeded qualification team Sam Boehm/Isaac Kapa was the first team to advance to the main draw followed by China’s 27th-seeded Cheng Chen/Pen Gao. Joining them in the men’s main draw are Canada’s 20th-seeded Christian Redmann/Ben Saxton, Austria’s 12th-seeded Alexander Horst/Daniel Mullner, France’s 26th-seeded Fabien Dugrip/Yannick Salvetti, Italy’s 14th-seeded Matteo Ingrosso/Paolo Ingrosso, Brazil’s top-seeded Rhooney Ferramenta/Pedro Salgado and New Zealand’s eighth-seeded Jason Lochhead/Kirk Pitman.
The third of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011 began with women’s country quota matches on Monday, single elimination qualification tournament Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw on Wednesday through Friday, followed by the women’s single-elimination bracket play that has the semifinals and medal matches to be played Saturday with the men’s “final four” matches Sunday as the winning pairs in each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. The men’s schedule mirrors the women, starting one day later with main draw pool play starting Thursday.
Australia’s Boehm/Kappa scored their deciding win in the second round to advance with a 21-16, 24-22 win in 42 minutes over Germany’s second-seeded qualification team Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik while China’s Chen/Gao moved ahead with their three-set win over Switzerland’s 11th-seeded Philip Gabathuler/Jan Schnider, 21-19, 19-21 and 15-9 in 51 minutes.
Canada’s Redmann/Saxton recorded their second round advancement win over Georgia’s Renato “Geor” Gomes/Jorge “Gia” Terceiro, 21-19, 21-16 in 36 minutes while Austria’s Horst/Mullner got their main draw spot with a 32-minute two-set win over Turkey’s 28th-seeded Volkan Gogtepe/Selcuk Sekerci,21-16, 21-14.
France’s Dugrip/Salvetti punched their ticket to the main draw with a second round qualification victory over Canada’s 23rd-seeded Josh Binstock/Richard Van Huizen, 21-18, 21-16 in 37 minutes. Italy’s Ingrosso brothers sealed their spot in the main draw with a come-from-behind three-set victory over Austria’s third-seeded Clemens Doppler/Matthais Mellitzer, 17-21, 25-23 and 15-11 in 64 minutes, the longest match in the tournament so far.
The final two qualifying matches were both three setters as Brazil’s Ferramenta/Salgado came from behind to defeat Poland’s 17th-seeded Michael Kadziola/Jakob Szalankiewicz, 17-21, 21-16 and 15-12 in 50 minutes. Surviving to play again after another lengthy three-set final elimination match was New Zealand’s Lochhead/Pitman who finally got by Estonia’s Karl Jaani/Rivo Vesik, 21-16, 15-21 and 31-29 in 63 minutes.
Reflecting on their win in the longest match of the tournament so far, Italy’s Paolo Ingrosso said, “It was a difficult match, very, very tight. We had a lot of mistakes, but the Austrian team team was very strong, so the match was hard, but fun. We had our good moments, be we didn’t serve well in the beginning. We will have to try better, and it’s important for us to have fun. It helps us relax and concentrate better and start faster in the next match, but we made the main draw and that’s what’s important to us.”
The talented field includes the entire final four finishers from both genders from last year as well as the last five women’s gold medalists in Stavanger and the last three men’s gold medal winners at the extremely popular event and venue.
In last year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold, with silver going to their Brazilian compatriots Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes, the bronze to USA’s Nicole Branagh/Misty May-Treanor and fourth place to Czech Republic’s Lenka Hajeckova/Hana Klapalova.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Stavanger were Germany’s David Klemperer/Eric Koreng (gold), Norway’s Tarjei Skarlund/Martin Spinnangr (silver), USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (bronze) and Spain’s Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera (fourth place).
A total of 170 teams from 41 countries (94 men’s teams from 34 countries and 76 women’s teams from 30 countries) are participating in the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011—Angola, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela.
The 2011 calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events, including 12 double-gender tournaments, within all five FIVB confederations plus one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event held August 9-14 at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64-million in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments are combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and all six Grand Slam stops.
After the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with two more Grand Slam double-gender events: July 4-9 in Gstaad, Switzerland (1 to 1 Energy Grand Slam) and July 11-16 in Moscow (Moscow Grand Slam). The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000.
The FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011 is the 224th women’s event and 263rd men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour or the event, please visit www.fivb.org. For information on the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011, please visit the event website at www.wtstavanger.com.