Halifax, Canada, September 4, 2011 – As the sparkling sand of Halifax’s center court settled for the final time Sunday, Switzerland’s Nina Betschart/Joana Heidrich were crowned women’s world champions as the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch Junior World Championships concluded.
While Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich won the gold medal, the silver went to Canada’s Victoria Altomare/Melissa Humana-Paredes and capturing the bronze medal was Netherland’s Rimke Braakman/Sophie van Gestel.
The world’s best young adult women’s teams competed on the SEA complex at the 11th annual double-gender event for players under 21 that concluded Sunday afternoon as the world championship event was held 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 year’s 11th annual double-gender event was held in Halifax, a regional municipality of over 300,000 residents located in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. It was the first time that this event was held in North America. The medal matches for each gender were played on Sunday on the sold-out SEA center court stadium. Gathered in Halifax for this year’s event were 59 teams (28 men and 31 women) from 24 countries.
In the Halifax women’s gold medal match, Switzerland’s eighth-seeded Betschart/ Heidrich finally overcame Canada’s top-seeded Victoria Altomare/Melissa Humana-Paredes in three sets, 21-16, 14-21 and 15-11 in a 48-minute finale.
In the women’s bronze medal match Netherland’s ninth-seeded Braakman/van Gestel defeated Poland’s 13th-seeded Renata Bekier/Daria Paszek, 21-18 and 25-23 in 41 minutes.
In Sunday’s medal matches, held 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.
Switzerland won its first gold medal, second medal overall and had its fifth women’s team ever in the final four of the FIVB Swatch Junior World Championships. Canada made its first women’s final four appearance and earned its first women’s medal in the 11-year history of the event.
Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich finished with a 6-1 record in this tournament while Canada’s Altomare/Humana-Paredes ended up with a 4-3 mark.
“We were very nervous and in the second set we just could stop making mistakes but then we caught fire again in the tiebreaker, served better and were able to pull out the victory,” said an emotional Heidrich following the gold medal match. “I am in shock that we could go from not being a team just over a week ago because my original teammate got ill to playing with Nina who is so young and in her first junior world championship. Nina played amazingly and when we got messed up in the second set, I was able to help her more and she did the rest so well. She is going to be an awesome player when she gets older and both of us are so proud to be here and to give Switzerland it’s first gold medal. The Canadians played very hard and we feel fortunate to have been able to beat a much more experienced team on their home sand.
The bronze medal match marked the sixth time a team from Netherlands earned a medal and seventh final four placement and it was the third time a women’s team from Poland earned a final four placement.
“Playing these youth and junior world championships has really been a rewarding experience for me and Rimke and we both look forward to playing next year on the FIVB Swatch World Tour, although it will be with different partners,” said van Gestel after her team’s bronze medal victory. In the semifinals yesterday we made a lot of mistakes. Today we played with more confidence, made fewer mistakes and we know the Polish team very well and that probably help us win today as we played very good, especially when we got behind.”
After seeming to take control in the first set of the gold medal match and building up large leads from the start, Switzerland’s Betschart/Heidrich were swamped in the second set to the delight of the sold out partisan crowd when Canada’s Altomare/Humana-Parades played a near flawless second set. In the deciding tiebreaker set, Switzerland regained control of the match and with the young Betschart coming up with six kills for points and Heidrich serving uptwo aces and three blocks for points, Switzerland captured its first gold medal in this event.
Heidrich finished fifth in last year’s FIVB Swatch Junior World Championships in Alanya, Turkey last year while Betschart, 15, who was the second-youngest player in the tournament this year, finished fifth at this year’s FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships in Umag, Croatia in late June.
In the bronze medal match, both sets had numerous tie scores, including 15 in the deciding second set. Braakman ended the first set with an ace serve. In the second set, which had 15 ties in it, after the score was tied at 13-13, Netherlands fell behind Poland 17-13 and 19-16 before tying the score at 19-19. Poland three set points, had three set serves of their own, with Braakman/van Gestel eventually prevailing with van Gestel ending the match with a poke down the line.
In addition to the bronze medal in the last FIVB youth or junior world championship, Netherland’s Braakman/van Gestel, both 20, leave Canada with a 6-1 record. For van Gestel, it was her second medal in this event, as she also won a silver in Blackpool, England in 2009 with Michelle Stiekema. Van Gestel also won a silver medal in the 2008 FIVB Swatch Youth World Championships for players under 19 in the Hague, Netherlands, playing with Braakman.
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 leaves Halifax with a 5-2 record in their final FIVB youth or junior event..
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 was 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 had a special Nova Scotia web cam link showing the entire venue at www.novascotiawebcams.com/halifax/sands-at-salter.html.