Klagenfurt, Austria, July 18, 2012—As blue skies and brilliant Austrian summer sunshine showered down on the Klagenfurt venue, action on six competition courts turned the burner up a notch as eight teams from eight countries fought through two qualification round matches among 32 teams Wednesday to advance to the 32-team main draw which starts Thursday at the $600,000 A1 Grand Slam presented by ERGO in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
The world’s top beach volleyball tandems have returned to Austria as the double-gender event marks the 16th consecutive visit by the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour with Klagenfurt hosting 15 men’s and 11 previous women’s events. In 2001 Klagenfurt hosted the FIVB SWATCH World Championships and has hosted a grand slam every year since 2002.
The eight countries that advanced from the qualifying matches on Wednesday to start men’s pool play on Thursday are from Canada, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia and Sweden.
One of the most popular events of many ‘favorite’ events on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, the Klagenfurt venue features a purpose-built 8,000-seat stadium center court and massive two-story VIP hospitality area and private dock along with another private players dock alongside the short of spectacularly beautiful Lake Woerth in western Klagenfurt, which is located in Southern Austria.
The men’s single-elimination qualification tournament Wednesday determiner the final eight spots in the men’s 32-team main draw that will start Thursday with two days of round-robin pool play where each team will play three matches. The top three teams in each pool will than advance to Friday afternoon’s 24-team single-elimination bracket phase of the tournament.
The eight teams from eight countries (along with their qualification tournament seed) who earned the right to play three more matches over two days of pool play are Canada’s eighth-seeded Christian Redmann/Ben Saxton, Estonia’s 19th-seeded Kristo Kollo/Rivo Vesik, Kazakhstan’s top-seeded qualification team Alexandr Dyachenko/Alexey Sidorenko, Netherlands’ fourth-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen, New Zealand’s second-seeded Jason Lochhead/Kirk Pitman, Norway’s 12th-seeded Geir Eithun/Iver Horrem, Russia’s 11th-seeded Dmitri Barsouk/Yury Bogatov and Sweden’s seventh-seeded Hannes Brinkborg/Stefan Gunnarsson.
Because of a late withdrawal by a team from the Czech Republic, a lucky loser draw between the highest seeded eliminated qualifying teams to determine who will join the 32-team main draw field.
The seventh of a FIVB-record eight grand slams on the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour schedule, the A1 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 women’s 32-team main draw pool play on Wednesday and Thursday and single-elimination bracket Thursday afternoon 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, starting one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday and the men’s competition finishing on Wednesday.
In the biggest seed breakthrough among the qualifiers, Estonia’s 19th-seeded Kollo/Vesik, advanced by defeating two higher-seeded teams. In the first round Estonia’s Kollo/Vesik defeated Canada’s 14th-seeded Josh Binstock/Martin Reader, 21-17, 21-8 in 33 minutes and backed that up by winning again over Georgia’s third-seeded Renato “Geor” Gomes/Jorge “Gia” Terceiro in three sets, 18-21, 21-15 and 16-14 in 51 minutes.
“We played very good today, I just hope we can keep it up because it will be a lot tougher in the main draw, but we would be rather be heading there than heading home to Estonia,” said Kollo, 22 years old, who won the 2008 FIVB SWATCH Youth World Championships in the Hague, Netherlands with Oliver Venno. “We beat two teams today with much more experience as a team, especially Georgia who were 2008 Olympians, so we’re happy, but not satisfied. We have a long way to go but we’re headed in the right direction.”
The talented field includes the three of the final four finishers in the women’s competition from last year and all four of the men’s final four from last year’s A1 Grand Slam in Klagenfurt. Returning from last year’s women’s competition are China’s silver medalists Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, Netherland’s bronze medalists Sanne Keizer/Marleen Van Iersel and Brazil’s Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes who finished fourth last year for the third consecutive year. Brazil’s reigning FIVB SWATCH World Champions Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca are entered this year in Klagenfurt as well where they won the gold medal in both 2009 and 2010 and the silver in 2006.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Kalgenfurt, who are all entered this year with one player switching partners are Brazil’s Pedro Cunha/Ricardo Santos (gold), Germany’s Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann (silver), USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (bronze) and fourth place was Brazil’s Joao Maciel/Bruno Oscar Schmidt although this year Schmidt is playing with Benjamin Insfran, who won this event in 2003 in Marcio Araujo.
A total of 155 teams from 37 countries (89 men’s teams from 30 countries and 66 women’s teams from 24 countries) started the A1 Grand Slam presented by ERGO (as of July 15, 2012), including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States, and Venezuela.
The 2012 calendar features 13 women's and 12 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 Parade. The 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour is offering $6,110-million in prize money.
After the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 2012 FIVB Swatch World Tour returns to action with the eighth and final grand slam double-gender event August 13-19 with the Mazury Orlen Grand Slam in Stare Jablonki, Poland. The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000.
The A1 Grand Slam is the 241st women’s event and 281st men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill) schedule. 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.
Also on-site this week at the Klagenfurt venue is a special production crew from IMG, the company that not only produces the live international telecasts of the medal matches, but also the weekly FIVB SWATCH World Tour highlight show that is syndicated throughout the world.
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 A1 Grand Slam, please visit the event website at www.beachvolleyball.at.