Klagenfurt, Austria, August 7, 2011 – In a day filled with surprises, if not upsets that the overflow Klagenfurt center court crowd of over 9,000 enjoyed immensely, Brazil’s Pedro Cunha and Ricardo Santos won the internationally-televised men’s gold medal Sunday to complete a spectacular run against the best athletes in the sport at the finale of the week-long $600,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, a double-gender event on the 2011 Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour.
The world’s best beach volleyball tandems were back in Klagenfurt, the self-proclaimed beach volleyball capital of the world that attracted nearly 100,000 spectators over seven days as the double-gender event marked 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. City officials also confirmed a four-year contract extension for the amazingly popular event that saw fans lining up to get in the stadium four hours before the first whistle blew and the center court sand.
With the early-arriving throng of spectators increasing their intense enthusiasm for the sport as the day grow, Brazil’s fourth-seeded Cunha/Ricardo didn’t wilt in the heat of the afternoon nor the heat on the court as they added an major exclamation point to a week-long festival of sun, fun and the world’s greatest beach volleyball athletes performing at Olympian levels. In the exhilarating gold medal match, Brazil’s Cunha/Ricardo overcame Germany’s third-seeded Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann in the 65-minute championship finale, that was fittingly the longest match of the tournament.
While this is their first final four appearance for Brazil’s Cunha/Ricardo tandem, Brazil’s Cunha and Ricardo are both veterans with 54 FIVB Swatch World Tour career gold medals between them (51 for Ricardo and four for Cunha), this was only their second tournament together and after losing their first two pool play matches of the tournament, battled back to win the title and end with a 6-2 record in Klagenfurt.
The veteran Ricardo, 36, has now played in 114 FIVB Swatch World Tour final fours and in addition to his 51 overall gold medals, he has 27 silver, 19 bronze and 17 fourth place finishes. This was also his fourth all-time gold medal in Klagenfurt and with his third partner. For Cunha, this was his 25th FIVB Swatch World Tour final four and in additional to his four gold medals he has nine silver, six bronze and six fourth place finishes in his career.
Germany’s Brink/Reckermann, who are now 47-14 for the 2011 international season, now have 21 final four finishes in 27 career events together and Sunday they earned their sixth gold medal. This was the first meeting between the two teams.
This was also the 26th meeting between Brazil and Germany in a FIVB Swatch World Tour gold medal match, and the series now stands at 19-7 in favor of Brazil.
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 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. On Saturday, the women’s semis and gold medal matches were held on the Klagenfurt center court and winning the women’s gold medal was USA’s Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh, their 38th FIVB career gold medal as a team.
In the first set, Brazil took the lead early and kept it until Germany tied it at 14-14, 15-15 and then Germany fell behind 15-17 before scoring the next three points to take the lead 18-17 on a Reckermann block when Brazil called time out. After the break, Cunha scored on two consecutive great cross-court kills, to take the lead back at 19-18. Record then blacked Reckermann for a point to set up Brazil’s first set point. Brink hen scored for Germany on a cross-court kill and then Cunha ended the first set with another cross court kill, this one off of Brink.
The second set started out even tighter than the first with only one point differences and five ties with the last one 13-13 as Brink/Reckermann gradually inched away with great net play by both players to eventually win it.
Germany started the tiebreaker set by scoring the first two points on a Brink kill and Reckermann block on Ricardo and extended the early lead to 3-1 before Cunha/Ricardo tied it at 3-3 with a Ricardo ace down the middle and took their first lead with a Cunha kill off of Brink and Germany called time out after Cunha hit a short cut shot in front of the diving Brink to go up 5-3. From that point, Ricardo brought back memories of his storied career with big blocks and great passes to Cunha to earn the gold medal in just their third event as a team.
“I’m really, really excited to have won a gold medal with the great Ricardo in just our third tournament together, especially when you think that we started this week 0-2,” said Cunha immediately after the gold medal finale to an international television audience. “I am very, very honored to be part of this new partnership and I know we will continue to get better and have more success. We beat some very great teams in this tournament including Brazil’s Alison/Emanuel, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers and now Germany’s Brink/Reckermann, the three teams that were seeded ahead of us here in Klagenfurt.”
Commenting on his fourth gold medal in Klagenfurt with his third different partner, Ricardo said, “I am very happy to have another gold medal here because my last one was in 2007 and now we have a new team and our goal is to represent Brazil at next year’s Olympics in London.”
In Sunday’s bronze medal match, USA’s very frustrated second-seeded Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers bounced back from their tough semifinal loss to overpower Brazil’s 14th-seeded Joao Maciel/Bruno Oscar Schmidt, 21-14, 21-12. in a match that lasted 38 minutes. With the win, USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers increased their 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour record to 57-14.
Winners of the last two FIVB Swatch World Tour event gold medals before this event, three Klagenfurt gold medals including the last two years straight, USA’s Olympic champions Dalhausser/Rogers earned their 37th final four, 35th medal and eighth gold medal out of their 48th world tour events as a team.
Brazil’s Maciel/Schmidt team is in their third tournament back together after not playing together in 2010. This their 24th all-time FIVB Swatch World Tour event together and their third final four slot and they have one silver medal. This year, they finished ninth in Canada and lost a country quota playoff match in Poland last week before winning their first six matches and then losing their two final four matches in this tournament.
An appreciative and vocal crowd once again honored the two-time defending champions during the bronze medal match, knowing that there hopes of a three-peat were gone. A visibly frustrated Dalhausser/Rogers took out their emotions on Maciel/Schmidt whom they defeated for the second time, the first one in the round of 16 at the Quebec Open in Canada three weeks ago.
While the first set was dominated by the Americans, the Brazilians rallied in the second set early, scoring first, going back and forth early before Dalhausser blocks and serves and Rogers digs and kills put Maciel/Schmidt down.
“We were very frustrated and angry after all the missed opportunities we had in our semifinal and I think it showed in our level of play and result in the bronze medal match against Maciel and Schmidt,” commented Dalhausser following the bronze medal match win. We played angry in this one and it worked out. It was very, very frustrating, there isn’t much more to say than that.”
Rogers also commented on the tournament and the final day saying, “From a player’s perspective, this is the best tournament in the world. The fans are a humungous part of this event. We made it to Sunday, a major goal, but we wanted to win our third straight gold medal match here. Unfortunately, our passing and setting was really very poor in our semifinal loss and we just missed so many opportunities. We are pleased to win the bronze medal though.”
With the full house already on its collective feet, Sunday morning’s men’s semifinals saw Brazil’s Cunha/Ricardo hung tough to overcome repeated challenges as they won over USA’s Dalhausser/Rogers in two sets, 21-19, 33-31 in 54 minutes and the other semifinal, Germany’s Brink/Reckermann Brazil’s Maciel/Schmidt, 21-12, 21-19 in 44 minutes.
In the first semifinal, despite both teams having numerous opportunities to win each set, the match came down to Ricardo’s blocking at the net and Cunha’s amazing number of kills, straight and cut shots as Dalhausser/Rogers just could close it either set because of serving and hitting errors. In the deciding second set, Dalhausser/Rogers worked together to save eight match points and had four match points of their own that there were unable to close.
In the other semifinal Sunday morning, Germany’s Brink/Reckermann were smoking hot in the first set and then fell behind in the second before rallying to win in the end after finally cactching Brazil’s Maciel/Schmidt at 18-18. It was the third meeting between the two teams as Maciel/Schmidt defeated Brink/Reckermann in two sets in pool play here in Klagenfurt on Friday and Brink/Reckerman won in the quarterfinals in Poland last week in two sets.
The talented field included 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 played with new teammates this year.
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), Brazil’s Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (fourth place).
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 that runs Tuesday through Sunday at the venue to be used for next year’s London 2012 Olympics. 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 FIVB A1 Grand Slam presented by Volksbank was 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 was 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.