Stare Jablonki, Poland, July 26, 2011 – Enthralled by the relaxing ambience of the Hotel Anders resort and spa venue and refreshed by the cool breezes permeating the air from the adjacent peaceful Szelag Maly Lake, eight teams from eight countries victoriously advanced from a 27-team qualification tournament Tuesday to the women’s 32-team main draw Wednesday at the $600,000 FIVB Swatch Mazury Orlen Grand Slam Stare Jablonki 2011.
The world’s best beach volleyball tandems are back in Poland as the double-gender event marks the eighth consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch world tour with Stare Jablonki hosting seven previous men’s events and three previous women’s events. This is also the second year it has been a grand slam instead of an open event. Overall, this is the 10th men’s event held in Poland (Myslowice hosted in 2009, 2010), and eighth women’s event held in Poland (Myslowice hosted in 2008 and this year and Warsaw in 2006, 2007).
Hotel Anders resort and spa in the Mazury region of northeast Poland has hosted this event since the event began in 2004. Stare Jablonki is a village of just 750 permanent residents that swells to over 30,000 for the week of this event and the Mazury region is known throughout Europe for having more than 1,000 lakes. The smallest population area the FIVB Swatch World Tour visits every year, the Hotel Anders event has a history of drawing among the largest of all crowds annually on the tour.
The eight countries that advanced from the qualifying matches Tuesday to the start women’s main draw on Wednesday were Canada, China, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Russia, Switzerland and the United States.
The women’s single-elimination qualification tournament Tuesday determined the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw that will start on Wednesday with two days of round-robin pool play with teams divided into four-team pools that are based on seeds, for three games.
The sixth of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the FIVB Swatch Mazury Orlen Grand Slam Stare Jablonki 2011 began with women’s country quota matches on Monday, continued with the single elimination qualification tournament on Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw on Wednesday through Friday. After pool play ends Friday, the top 24 teams will advance to single-elimination bracket play. The women’s semifinals and medal matches will 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 country quota matches on Tuesday.
The eight teams from eight countries who have earned the right to play three more matches over two more days of pool play were USA’s top-seeded qualification team Angie Akers/Nicole Branagh, Georgia’s second-seeded Cristine Santanna/Andrezza Martins, Finland’s third-seeded sisters Emilia and Erika Nystrom, Germany’s, China’s fourth-seeded Ying Huang/Yuan Yue, Russia’s fifth-seeded Ekaterina Khomyakova, ninth-seeded Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Canada’s 11th-seeded qualification team Heather Bansley/Elizabeth Maloney and Switzerland’s 23rd-seeded Isabelle Forrer/Joana Heidrich.
USA’s Akers/Branagh and Germany’s Borger/Buthe both had to win a country quote playoff match on Monday just to get into the qualification tournament and while Akers/Branagh had a bye in the first round of the qualification tournament, Borger/Buthe had to win two more matches Tuesday to advance to Wednesday’s main draw.
To advance to the main draw, USA’s Akers/Branagh defeated Great Britain’s 16th-seeded Lucy Boulton/Denise Johns, 21-14, 24-22 in 39 minutes. Germany’s Borger/Buthe first defeated France’s 24th-seeded Mathilde Giordano/Emma Larche, 21-18, 21-18 in 34 minutes and then came back in the advancement match to beat Belgium’s eighth-seeded Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha, 21-15, 21-17 in 34 minutes.
“It’s good to have a bye in the qualification tournament, but it’s tough to have to go through country quota playoffs and after losing the country quota playoff in the last two grand slams in Norway and Switzerland, I’m happy that we won that match and our qualification match to make it to the main draw again,” said USA’s Nicole Branagh after her team’s qualifying win Tuesday. “Country quota process is very grueling, but that’s just how it is, but we have made it out to this point. Against the British team in qualifying, we took care of the opportunities we had and this was our first match against them so it took some adjusting but we got it done.”
The talented field this year includes the entire final four finishers from both genders from last year as well as at least one member of the men’s gold medal teams in Stare Jablonki and the last two women’s gold medal winners. Six of the men’s gold medal teams are playing with new teammates 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 China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang bronze to Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes and fourth place to Austria’s Barbara Hansel/Sara Montagnolli.
Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa also won the Stare Jablonki gold medal in 2009.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Stare Jablonki were USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (gold), Germany’s Julius Brink/Jonasa Reckermann (Silver), Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (Bronze) and Germany’s David Klemperer/Eric Koreng (fourth place).
Brazil’s Emanuel Rego, who has won in Stare Jablonki four times with Ricardo Santos (2004, 2006, 2007,and 2008) but this year Emanuel is playing with Alison Cerutti, and Ricardo is paired for the first time this season with Pedro Cunha. Switzerland’s Martin Laciga, who won here in 2005 with Markus Egger, is playing this time with Jonas Weingart. Brazil’s Benjamin Insfran, who won here in 2009 with Pedro Salgado, is playing his first tournament back with longtime teammate Marcio Araujo here in Poland.
A total of 160 teams from 40 countries (86 men’s teams from 32 countries and 74 women’s teams from 32 countries) have entered the FIVB Swatch Mazury Orlen Grand Slam Stare Jablonki 2011 (as of July 24, 2011), including Angola (1 men’s team, 0 women’s teams), Australia (2,3), Austria (4,2), Belarus (1,0), Belgium (0,1), Brazil (8,6), Bulgaria (0,1), Canada (4,3), China (2,3), Czech Republic (2,2), Denmark (1,0), Estonia (1,1), Finland (0,1), France (2,3), Georgia (1,1), Germany (5,6), Great Britain (4,2), Greece (2,2), Italy (4,2), Japan (2,2), Kazakhstan (2,1), Latvia (3,2), Mexico (0,1), Netherlands (5,4), New Zealand (1,0), Norway (3,1), Poland (2,4), Portugal (2,0), Puerto Rico (0,1), Russia (3,3), Slovak Republic (0,1), Slovenia (0,2), Spain (2,3), Sweden (1,2), Switzerland (4,3), Turkey (2,0), Ukraine (0,1), United States (5,4), Uruguay (1,0), and Venezuela (4,0).
The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour 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 $600,000 FIVB Swatch Mazury Orlen Grand Slam Stare Jablonki 2011, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour has its last of six 2011 Grand Slam double-gender events in Klagenfurt, Austria (A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank Klagenfurt 2011). Each grand slam had $600,000 purses and the other major event this year, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Championships in Rome had a $1 million total purse.
The $600,000 FIVB Swatch Mazury Orlen Grand Slam Stare Jablonki 2011 is the 228th women’s event and 267th 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. While this is the 25th year that the FIVB has sanctioned international pro beach volley events, it is the 23rd year of the men’s and 20th year of the women’s FIVB Swatch World Tour.
Also on-site this week at the Hotel Anders this week is a special production crew from IMG, the company that not only produces the live international telecasts of select matches, but also the weekly FIVB Swatch World Tour highlight show that is syndicated throughout the world.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, please visit www.fivb.org or visit the event website at www.worldtour.pl.