Gstaad, Switzerland, July 9, 2011—In a performance that would rival the sheer beauty of this inspiring valley as well as the majesty of the surrounding Swiss Alps, Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil won the women’s gold medal Saturday to complete an amazing run of seven consecutive victories through a world-class field at the $600,000 FIVB Swatch 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad 2011.
The world’s top beach volleyball tandems have been in Switzerland since Monday as the double-gender event marks the 12th consecutive visit by the world tour with Gstaad hosting 10 men’s and 11 previous women’s events. Gstaad is a quaint village nestled in a magnificent valley in Southwestern Switzerland at 3,440-feet (1,050 meters) above sea-level, the highest altitude a FIVB Swatch World Tour stop is held at every year.
In the gold medal match, Brazil’s second-seeded Juliana/Larissa felt the ‘love’ from an exuberant and boisterous standing-room-only crowd of over 7,500 that packed the Gstaad stadium center court and defeated China’s seventh-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang in straight sets, 21-15, 21-13 in the 36-minute championship match.
The fourth of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the FIVB Swatch 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad 2011, the winning pairs in Gstaad will each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. Silver medalists will split $29,500 while bronze medal winners will divide $23,000 and the fourth place finishers will receive $18,400.
For Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa, who won the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Championship three weeks ago in Rome, Gstaad has become a very special place as the earned their third gold medal and sixth consecutive podium finish as they captured their 40th career FIVB Swatch World Tour gold medal as a team and earning their 75th final four appearance in 91 career events together. In leaving Gstaad with a perfect 7-0 record including three pool play matches and four single-elimination round wins, they did it impressively by being forced to three sets only once in their victory march up the Swiss Alps. It was also Juliana/Larissa’s fourth gold medal of the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour season.
Friendly rivals who know each other well and even train together on occasion Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa increased their career series record with China’s Xue/Zhang, to 17-6. China’s Xue/Zhang now have earned 10 career FIVB silver medals and 28 final four finishes in the 61 FIVB Swatch World Tour events they have played together.
In impressive fashion, Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa played near flawlessly pulling away in the first set after the score was last tied at 7-7, maintaining a 4-6 point cushion to the finish of the set. In the second and deciding set, China’s Xue/Zhang kept it close early once again, even taking a 5-4 lead before a Larissa ace serve, a Juliana artistic cross-corner slap followed by another block gave the Brazilians the lead they never relinquished.
“We only lost one set in the tournament and our focus was strong every match and it all ended with our 40th FIVB Swatch World Tour gold medal, so what more can we say,” said an obviously pleased Juliana on center court following her team’s championship win. We are very good friends with Xue and Zhang but there wasn’t anyone who was going to beat us today. Today the match didn’t run like normal, we were almost always in front and the sets finished quickly. The Chines team is a very tough opponent for us because in each game we have to learn more how to play against them. We played very well during this tournament and the people in Gstaad really are supportive and they appreciate beach volleyball as the great sport that we know that it is all around the world.”
“We had a 17th in Beijing a month ago which was horrible for us but we rebounded in Rome to win the world championship and then last week we won a bronze in Stavanger, but we knew we needed to focus more and be mentally more into our matches. We did that here in Gstaad and now we have to learn more and keep doing it for the rest of the season.”
In Sunday’s bronze medal match, the great effort resumed as Italy’s fifth-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti upended Brazil’s sixth-seeded Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes, 22-20, 21-14 in 36 minutes.
A team that is one of the top rising young duos on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour, Cicolari, 23, and Menegatti, 20, who upset USA’s Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh in the quarterfinals on their way to their fourth final four appearance in 20 world tour events as a team, fell behind in the first set early, rallied to tie it at 19-19 and then battled back and forth with Antonelli/Antunes, the 2009 Gstaad gold medalists, to win the opening set. In the second set, the match was tied early before the Italian’s slowed moved ahead on great digs and kills by Menegatti and outstanding net play and serves by Cicolari.
It was the first FIVB career bronze medal for the Cicolari/Menegatti tandem and the 23rd final four finish in 35 FIVB Swatch World Tour events for the Antonelli/Antunes tandem. Last September, Menegatti won the silver medal at the 2010 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships, for players under 21 years old, in Alanya, Turkey, with Viktoria Orsi Toth and in 2007 Menegatti won the silver medal at the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Youth World Championships, for players under 19 years old, in Myslowice, Poland with Gilda Lombardo.
“Yesterday I phoned my mother in Italy, and told her that we had advanced even more and had defeated the Olympic champions (USA’s Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh),” rejoiced Menegatti in the media mixed zone following her team’s bronze medal win. “So what did she do? She got in her car and immediately started driving to Gstaad. I’m really proud that we won the first women’s medal for Italy in a Grand Slam tournament, and especially for me because in fact that I’m only 20 years old. To attain this with only 20 years is incredible.”
Cicolari was very pleased as well with her team’s performance, saying “We are completely happy about our performance here in the Gstaad Grand Slam. Last year we only finished 17th and this year the bronze medal, that’s a pretty good improvement. We only lost one match in the tournament and that was in the semifinals to Juliana and Larissa who won the gold medal in Gstaad. Also, even more because for Marta this was a big experience, she’s very young and so what we did here in Gstaad gives us experience to handle a loss and come back and still win the bronze medal.”
In Saturday’s women’s semifinals held in late morning, China’s Xue/Zhang overwhelmed Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes, 21-13, 21-18 in 38 minutes and the other semifinal Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa overpowered Italy’s Cicolari/Menegatti, 21-17, 21-10 in 34 minutes.
The outcome of both semifinals never seemed in doubt as both winning teams seemed very much in control of their respective matches. China’s Xue/Zhang increased their series record lead against Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes to 9-4 and Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa now have a 3-0 all-time record against Italy’s young and rising stars Cecolari/Menegatti.
In the 2010 women’s competition in Gstaad, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold, with silver going to Germany’s Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig, the bronze to China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang and fourth place to Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes. All but Germany’s Goller/Ludwig were part of this year’s final four once again.
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 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad 2011, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with another Grand Slam double-gender event Monday through next Sunday in Moscow (Moscow Grand Slam). The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000.
The FIVB Swatch 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad 2011 was the 225th women’s event and 264th 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 1to1 energy Grand Slam Gstaad 2011, please visit the event website at www.beachworldtour.ch.