Gstaad, Switzerland, July 5, 2012—With the threatening weather system continuing to hover overhead, 32 women’s teams created their own storms on the sand as pool play was completed Thursday with 24 teams advancing to Friday’s start of the single-elimination portion at the double-gender $600,000 1to1 energy Grand Slam in Gstaad, Switzerland.
It’s never easy to leave a place you like so much, but in the case of Gstaad Thursday, eight women’s teams were forced to bid “Uf Widrluaga” to this magical valley nestled in the Swiss Alps as the rain-delayed pool play was completed Thursday that sent eight teams away from the majestic mountains and the inspiring village. Single-elimination bracket play will begin Friday morning.
The 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour continues in Gstaad as the world’s top tandems have returned to Switzerland as the double-gender event marks the 13th consecutive visit by the world tour with Gstaad hosting 11 men’s and 12 previous women’s events. Village Gstaad is nestled in a magnificent valley in Southwestern Switzerland at 3,440-feet (1,050 meters) above sea-level, the highest altitude a FIVB SWATCH World Tour stop is held annually.
Friday’s schedule will have the teams playing through the quarterfinals with the semifinals and medal matches to be held on the Gstaad stadium center court on Saturday.
SEVEN IN 3-0 HEAVEN
Seven of the eight four-team pools were won by undefeated teams. The countries who completed round-robin pool play with 3-0 records in winning their respective pools are Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, host-country Switzerland and the United States.
The fifth of an FIVB-record eight grand slams on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour schedule, the 1to1 energy Grand Slam 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 held Wednesday through Friday. 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, and started one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday.
BREAKING IT DOWN
Teams with 3-0 records in pool play and which pool they won are Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca (pool A), China’s second-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang (pool B), Italy’s third-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti (pool C), Germany’s seventh-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig (pool G), Netherlands’ 12th-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel (pool E), Switzerland’s eighth-seeded Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr (Pool H), and USA’s sixth-seeded Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh (pool F).
Pool D ended up with a three-way tie with 2-1 records between USA’s fourth-seeded Jennifer Kessy/April Ross, Belgium’s 13th-seeded Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha and Switzerland’s 29th-seeded Joana Heidrich/Romana Kayser. Based on tie-breaker rules, USA’s Kessy/Ross were declared winners of the pool.
Winning their pools with not only 3-0 records, but also unblemished in going 6-0 in sets were Italy’s Cicolari/Manegatti, Netherlands’ Meppelink/van Gestel and USA’s three-time Gstaad champions May-Treanor/Walsh.
The eight pools winners will have a bye into the second round of single-elimination play on Friday with the second and third place teams in each pool meeting in the first round of single-elimination action.
Netherland’s youthful Meppelink, 22 and van Gestel, 21, may be enjoying the summer of their lives as the won their pool here in Gstaad which included upsetting their fifth-seeded compatriots Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel on Wednesday in their opening match in what may end up being a battle between Dutch Olympians. Meppelink/van Gestel came to Gstaad from Moscow where they helped secure a second spot in the women’s field of 24 for the Netherlands after Keizer/Van Iersel had earned a first country spot by being in the top 16 in the Olympic rankings through the Rome Grand Slam of three weeks ago.
Both teams are expected to represent the Netherlands in London later this month with the official team lineup to be announced on July 9 by the FIVB. Ironically, Meppelink/van Gestel are in their first full season on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour as van Gestel just last September is still competing in under-21 year old events and won the bronze medal in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Today, Meppelink/van Gestel finished pool play with a two-set win over Slovenia’s Simona Fabjan/Andreja Vodeb, 21-13, 21-18 in 32 minutes.
Afterwards, van Gestal said, “We did our things and we did them well. We are first in our pool and that’s great. The qualification for the Netherlands for the Olympic Games last week in Moscow gives us wings. We hope that we can win many more matches here in Gstaad, it is so beautiful here.”
MORE QUOTES, PLEASE
Still relishing in their three wins in Gstaad, Switzerland’s Zumkehr said after winning their pool with two wins against Swiss teams, “It’s always difficult to play against Swiss teams because they know us very well. On the other hand, we want to show here back home that we are number one in Switzerland. The best way to do this is indeed in the direct matches against other Swiss teams.”
Reflecting as well was Kuhn, saying, “We had a wonderful tournament in winning in Rome two weeks ago, But it is not easy coming to our home country after a big gold medal like that. It is a totally new tournament and we have to start again at the very beginning. Of course we could gain a lot of confidence by our victories. The matches were close, it looks easy on paper with three wins in three matches, but it wasn’t easy at all. Every team tries to trip us and they are especially motivated against us, not only because we are the top team from Switzerland but that we won the gold medal at the Rome Grand Slam.”
Following their two-set victory Thursday over Austria’s Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger today, USA’s Walsh said, “The score wasn’t close at all, but the Schwaiger sisters put a lot of pressure on us during the match. We want to grow and learn during the tournament all the way to the finals. Our goal is to win here in Gstaad again. I remember when we won the 2007 FIVB SWATCH World Championships here. I love Cowbells (special custom trophy for the winners) and we really want to get one.”
May-Treanor/Walsh have won five gold medals in Gstaad overall, including the 2007 world championships.
GRAND GSTAAD GUARANTEES
The gold medal teams in each gender in the 1to1 energy Grand Slam will each split $43,500, the silver $29,500, the bronze $23,000 and fourth place $18,400. The women’s medal matches will be held Saturday and the men’s medal matches will be played on Sunday in the raucous Gstaad stadium center court. For more information on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour or the event, please visit www.fivb.org. For additional information on the 1to1 energy Grand Slam, please visit the event website at www.beachworldtour.ch.
TOP PLAYERS RETURN
The talented field includes the three of the final four finishers from both genders from last year’s tournament. In last year’s women’s competition, Brazill’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold for the second straight year, with silver going to China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, the bronze to Italy’s Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti and fourth place for the second straight year to Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes. Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes aren’t in Gstaad this year.
Representing eight years, the two returning women’s gold medal winners in Gstaad are Brazil’s Juliana/Larissa (2005, 2010 and 2011) and USA’s May-Treanor/Walsh (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007). May-Treanor/Walsh’s victory in 2007 was for their third FIVB SWATCH World Championship.
GREAT GSTAAD FIELD
A total of 139 teams from 35 countries (76 men’s teams from 28 countries and 63 women’s teams from 23 countries) are competing in the 1to1 Energy Grand Slam (as of July 1, 2012), including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States, and Venezuela.
FIVB SWATCH WORLD TOUR CALENDAR
The 2012 calendar features 13 women's and 13 men's events, including nine double-gender tournaments, within four of the five FIVB confederations in addition to the approaching 2012 London Olympic Games on July 28 to August 9 in a purpose-built 15,000 stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parde. The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour is offering $6.32-million in prize money.
ALL ABOARD FOR BERLIN
After the 1to1 energy Grand Slam, the 2012 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with the next grand slam double-gender event July 10-15 in Berlin (Berlin Grand Slam). The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000.
LONG FIVB HISTORY
The 1to1 energy Grand Slam, is the 239th women’s event and 279th 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.