Halifax, Canada, September 3, 2011 – What started Saturday with eight remaining women’s teams starting the quarterfinals and semifinals on the sun-drenched sparkling sand of the SEA complex has determined Sunday’s medal match lineups at the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships for players under the age of 21.
With teams from Canada and Switzerland meeting in the gold medal match and Netherlands and Poland competing for the bronze medal, this year’s 11th annual double-gender event started Wednesday in Halifax, a regional municipality of over 300,000 residents located in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada.
The world championship event is being held through Sunday at the purpose-built beach volleyball complex on the Salter Lot of the Halifax Waterfront alongside the picturesque Halifax Harbor, the second largest natural harbor in the world. This is the first time in the event’s 11-year history that it is being held in North America. The event features live video streaming from the SEA center court at www.sandjamhalifax.ca.
The medal matches for each gender will be played on Sunday on the SEA center court stadium starting at noon with the women’s bronze medal match. Ticket information is available through the event website at www.sandjamhalifax.ca and they are on sale at the gate. Children, five and under, are free. Gathered in Halifax for this year’s event have been 59 teams (28 men and 31 women) from 24 countries.
Meeting for the Halifax women’s gold will be Canada’s top-seeded Victoria Altomare/Melissa Humana-Paredes facing vs. Switzerland’s eighth-seeded Nina Betschart/Joana Heidrich while the Halifax bronze medal match will be between Netherland’s ninth-seeded Rimke Braakman/Sophie van Gestel and Poland’s 13th-seeded Renata Bekier/Daria Paszek.
In Saturday afternoon’s semifinals, under amazingly blue skies reflecting even more of the glorious sunshine that has bathed the SEA complex this week in Halifax, the competition in the SEA center court stadium was as intense as the blazing Canadian sun.
Determining the medal matches for Sunday afternoon, the women’s semifinal matches saw Switzerland’s eighth-seeded Nina Betschart/Joana Heidrich surprised Netherland’s ninth-seeded Rimke Braakman/Sophie van Gestel, 21-19, 21-17 in 38 minutes and Canada’s top-seeded Victoria Altomare/Melissa Humana-Paredes used the energy from the standing-room-only home-country crowd to help overcome Poland’s 13th-seeded Renata Bekier/Daria Paszekin the longest match of the women’s tournament so far-58 minutes, 21-19, 15-21 and 15-12.
Switzerland has its fifth women’s team ever in the final four of the FIVB Swatch Junior World championships as well as their second in the gold medal match where they have a 0-1 record as Isabelle Forrer/Melanie Schoneberger won the silver medal in this event in 2002 in Catania, Italy. Canada is making its first women’s final four appearance in the 11-year history of this event.
Netherlands has a women’s team in the final four of this event for the seventh time while Poland has a women’s team in the final four for the third time.
Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich are now 5-1 in this tournament with all five of their wins lasting just two sets. Canada’s Altomare/Humana-Paredes enters the finale with a 4-2 record as well.
Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich lost their third and final pool play match on Friday, before winning three straight. Canada’s Altomare/Humana-Paredes lost their first two matches of pool play, including one to Poland’s Bekier/Paszek in two sets, before winning their next four straight to advance to the gold medal match.
With unforced errors playing a contributing factor, Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich, who only became a team five days before the tournament when Heidrich’s original teammate came down with a serious illness. Betschart, just 15 years old, and Heidrich, 20, played relaxed and made far fewer errors than their more experienced opponents.
“We are living a fairy tale and it won’t be over until we’re on top of the podium Sunday,” Heidrich said after their semifinal victory. “I didn’t want my career in youth and junior events to finish without even playing in the last world championships so I was happy to have Nina as a teammate for this year’s event in Canada. “We have nothing to lose so we are just so relaxed, so we aren’t making to many errors and we have been playing really good, especially for a team in such a huge tournament as this one. We had no expectations coming into the tournament so there was no pressure on us and we have just been getting better and better as a team each match.”
Heidrich finished fifth in last year’s FIVB Swatch Junior World Championships in Alanya, Turkey last year while Heidrich, the second-youngest player in the tournament this year, finished fifth at this year’s FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships in Umag, Croatia.
In the second semifinal, Canada’s Altomare/Humana-Paredes, who both live in Toronto, continuously brought their home-country fans to their feet in winning the first set and then coming from 5-8 down in the tiebreaker set to first tie it at 9-9 and then pull away to win it 15-12 to advance to the gold medal finale.
“We really had no pressure on us to win and we had already lost in pool play to this more experienced Polish team so we went out and played well enough to win, but not that good overall,” said a happy Humana-Paredes, 18, who reunited with Altomare after a year apart though they had played four years together previously.
Altomore, 20, commented after her team’s victory, “After we started 0-2 losing to two very good teams, we decided we wanted to win a medal, even though it was very hard and we had to get out of pool play first. We made it into the main draw by the skin of our teeth and we’ve only been together again for a little over a month and we actually made it out of the qualifier and into the main draw of the world tour event in Quebec in July. Now we want a gold medal.”
Heading into the bronze medal match, Poland’s Bekier,Paszek, both 20, are a veteran youth and junior team who have played in three youth/junior world championship events together and four world tour events. The Polish team has a 5-1 record in Halifax. Netherland’s Braakman/van Gestel are also 5-1, with their only loss in the semifinals to Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich.
In the quarterfinal matches held earlier Saturday that set the stage for the semifinals later in the afternoon, three of which had to go three sets to decide the victors, Poland’s Bekier/Paszek outlasted Germany’s 24th-seeded Christine Aluenbrock/Isabell Schneider, 13-21, 21-11 and 15-7 in 39 minutes, Canada’s Altomare/Humana-Paredes overcame Germany’s fifth-seeded Victoria Bieneck/Cinja Tillmann, 21-19, 14-21 and 15-12 in 52 minutes, Netherlands’ Braakman/van Gestel defeated China’s Lingling Lin/Changning Zhang, 21-17, 23-25 and 15-11 in 52 minutes and Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich eliminated USA’s Tara Roenicke/Rebecca Strehlow, 21-9, 21-12 in 30 minutes.
The quarterfinal losers officially end their week-long journey in Halifax with fifth place finishes in the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships.
The gold medal team in each gender will also be rewarded by the FIVB and the respective organizers with wild cards and free transportation to take part in the main draw of a FIVB Swatch World Tour event in 2011 or 2012. A total of 2,000 tons of special sand were transported by truck to the SEA complex to build the four competition and two practice courts for the venue, which includes the 2,000-seat featured SEA center court.
An IMG television crew is also on-site to produce special segments for both genders to air internationally on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour highlight shows to air later this fall.
A founding province of Canada, Nova Scotia is nearly surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and is known for its high tides, lobster, fish, blueberries and apples. Halifax was the site of the first British town in Canada, founded in 1749. Since then, the area has evolved to be home for charming fishing villages, farming communities and Atlantic Canada's largest city. Halifax, the gateway to Atlantic Canada, has flourished as a prominent port city. Halifax was founded in 1749 by Governor Edward Cornwallis and 2,500 settlers to act as a naval and army base to protect the area, creating Canada’s first permanent British town on the world’s second-largest natural harbor. The peninsula, which Halifax is located on, is 4.5 miles wide and two miles long.
Produced by Canada’s Sports and Entertainment Atlantic (SEA) in association with the Canadian Volleyball Federation and under the sanction of the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), more event information is available at www.fivb.org or www.sandjamhalifax.ca. The event also has a special Nova Scotia web cam link showing the entire venue at www.novascotiawebcams.com/halifax/sands-at-salter.html.