Klagenfurt, Austria, August 6, 2011 – Much deserving of the numerous standing ovations they received from the boisterous sold-out Klagenfurt center court stadium crowd, USA’s legendary Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won the women’s gold medal Saturday to complete an amazing run of seven consecutive victories over a world-class field at the $600,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
The world’s best beach volleyball tandems are back in Austria through Sunday as the double-gender event marks the 15th consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour with Klagenfurt hosting 14 previous men’s events and 10 previous women’s events. In 2001 Klagenfurt hosted the FIVB Swatch World Championships and has hosted a grand slam every year since 2002. Sunday’s final day will feature the men’s semifinals and medal matches
In the internationally-televised gold medal match, USA’s fourth-seeded May-Treanor/Walsh created their own dynamo and fed off the encouraging energy of the vocal crowd of over 8,000 that packed the center court stadium to defeat China’s second-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, 21-14, 26-24 in the magnificent and stirring 37-minute championship match.
It was the 11th time in FIVB history that the China and the United States have met for the women’s gold medal, and the USA leads 9-2, the same record USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh have over China’s Xue/Zhang, although the only other gold medal match between USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh and China’s Xue/Zhang was USA’s win in Montreal, Canada in 2007.
The center court meeting between USA’s 2008 Olympic gold medalists and China’s 2008 Olympic bronze medalists was all that would be expected of this type of match in this type of dramatic setting.
One of the most popular events of many ‘all-time favorite’ events on the FIVB Swatch World Tour, the Klagenfurt venue features a fan-friendly purpose-built 8,000-seat center court stadium and massive two-story VIP hospitality area alongside the shore of spectacularly beautiful Lake Woerth in western Klagenfurt, which is located in southern Austria and is known as one of Austria’s top summer holiday destinations.
The last of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt, 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. Silver medalists will split $29,500 while bronze medal winners will divide $23,000 and the fourth place finishing teams will each receive $18,400.
In earning their 38th career FIVB international gold medal as a team, USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh came out hotter than the Klagenfurt center court sand and more fired up than the sold out Klagenfurt center court stadium crowd.
In the opening set, the American legends scored the first three points of the match and spread it to leads of 5-1, 7-2 but the gritty Chinese team that doesn’t quit, didn’t as they battled back to trail only 8-10, and the closest they got at 12-13, before Walsh blocks and May-Treanor digs and cross court kills and pokes closed the match for the USA by scoring 9 of the last 10 points.
The second set was almost the direct opposite of the first as the determined Xue/Zhang scored first and battled back and for every point as the set was tied 19 times, the last when they actually got a set point lead at 24-23, but once again USA’s two-time Olympic champions rose to the occasion scoring the last three points on a May-Treanor and a Walsh poke and Zhang’s kill attempt that went long to end the set and match.
For USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh, this was their 58th final four appearance in 68 FIVB international events together, and in addition to winning their 38th career gold medal as a team and third this season (all grand slam events), it was their 55th medal together. For China’s Xue/Zhang, Klagenfurt represented their 32nd final four in 64 events as a team, their 11th silver medal and 28th medal overall.
This was also the fifth Klagenfurt gold medal for USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh and Walsh actually now has six from when she won here in 2007 with Rachel Wacholder when May-Treanor was sidelined with a serious abdominal muscle injury.
USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh increased their 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour season record to 48-9 with the victory and China’s Xue/Zhang is 51-16 with their silver medal finish.
“I never get over the emotion of this place, the fans get you so pumped up it’s hard to keep from getting so excited that you make mistakes,” said Walsh after the awarding ceremony and after spending time with her traditional ‘thank you’ handshakes and hugs to the court personnel and nearby fans, including presenting her flowers to a physically challenged child seated near center court. “Our goal is the 2012 London Olympics and these FIVB Swatch World Tour events are big steps on the road to London. We always know that these Chinese players will never quit and they are very, very good, but Misty and I were on fire and we just weren’t about to lose. In the second set we missed some match points because we got excited and made a few mistakes but we overcame it. What great memories we have here in Klagenfurt.”
Reflecting in her own way on the tournament and gold medal match, May-Treanor said rhetorically, “Who would have ever thought after two years of not playing together, Kerri having two children and me with my injuries, that we would have three gold medals this season and our fifth gold medal in Klagenfurt? We did get a little hyped up near the end of the second set and wanted to get it over because we know how good the Chinese play and we didn’t want to give them any more opportunities to show it. Kerri and I really played well at this tournament and that’s not just because we won the gold medal. We had great strategies and we executed them very well for seven straight matches.”
In Saturday’s women’s bronze medal match, Netherland’s eighth-seeded Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel fought through a comeback attempt by Brazil’s third-seeded Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes to win in two sets, 21-18, 24-22 in 42 minutes. Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel is 42-17 for the FIVB international season after their bronze medal victory while Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes is 50-21. With the win, Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel evened their FIVB career record with Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes to 3-3 with their second straight win over the Brazilians as they defeated them in the quarterfinals in Shanghai. Both teams finished this tournament in Austria with 5-2 records.
Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel made it to the final four for the ninth time in 36 events together and this was their fourth overall medal and second bronze for them as a team. The Dutch women win the bronze medal after ninth-place finishes in the last two FIVB Swatch World Tour events in Stare Jablonki, Poland and Moscow. Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel also recorded their only two gold medal wins on the international tour by winning this year in back-to-back weeks in Shanghai, China and Myslowice, Poland.
Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes have now played in 26th final fours in 39 FIVB tournaments as a team and this is the sixth fourth place finish. In four of the last five events on the world tour, Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes earned top four finishes in four of those five events. They also won the gold medal at this year’s Quebec Open in Canada two weeks ago and finished fourth last week in Stare Jablonki, Poland.
Championship day for women in Klagenfurt dawned early Saturday morning with the eager fans already filling the stadium to participate in and enjoy brilliant semifinal matches that first saw China’s Xue/Zhang come from behind in both sets to defeat Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes, 21-16, 28-26 in 43 minutes. With the win, China’s Xue/Zhang avenged last Saturday’s three-set bronze medal match loss to Antonelli/Antunes in Stare Jablonki, Poland and increased their all-time FIVB career record against the Brazilians to 11-5.
In the other semifinal, which marked the 25th time in the 20-year history of the women’s FIVB Swatch World Tour that four countries were represented in the semifinals and the fifth time this season, USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh switched tactics after losing the first set and overcame Netherland’s Keizer/Van Iersel, 18-21, 21-14 and 15-12 in 45 minutes to advance to the 49th gold medal match of their illustrious career together. After losing to the Dutch women in three sets earlier this year in Stavanger, Norway in their first meeting, May-Treanor/Walsh evened the series history between the two teams at 1-1 with their own three-set victory.
The talented field 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 Klagenfurt 12 of the previous 14 years and seven of the previous women’s gold medal winners. Three of the men’s gold medal teams are playing with new teammates at the extremely popular event and venue.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Klagenfurt were USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (gold), USA’s Matt Fuerbringer/Nick Lucena (Silver), Brazil’s Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego (bronze) and Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (fourth place).
In last year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold, with silver going to Brazil’s Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima, the bronze was won by Germany’s Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig and fourth place to Austria’s own Barbara Hansel/Sara Montagnolli.
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 A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank, the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour takes a week off for the 24-team women’s only Olympic test event in London’s Horse Guard’s Parade. Following that event, Europe hosts the final two double-gender open events of 2011 in Aland, Finland from August 15-21 and The Hague, Netherlands from August 23-28. The FIVB will then present the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships for players under 21 years old, August 31-September 4 in Halifax, Canada.
The $600,000 A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank is the 229th women’s event and 268th 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 Klagenfurt venue 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.beachvolleyball.at.