FIVB Beach Volelyball World Tour

World Tour blog

Sandra Pires (BRA) - Pires reviews beach season with her picks for best players


Lausanne, Switzerland, November 6, 2013 – Seven months ago, Brazilian beach volleyball legend Sandra Pires previewed the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball season, with a blog post where she said it would be difficult to make any prediction about this year’s winners. "All I know is that 2013 can be anyone’s year and I am filled with anticipation to see the energy and enthusiasm this year’s crop of talent can bring to the courts,” she said. Now, with the season drawing to a close with one double-gender FIVB Open event remaining on December 11 to 15 in Durban, South Africa, Pires reviews the season with another exclusive blog post for FIVB.org.

“It surprised me to see Brazil’s Taiana Lima/Talita Antunes become World Champions so soon because they are a young team. But now they’re leading the 2013 FIVB Season Rankings. Pedro Solberg Salgado and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil also surprised me with their high performance during the season.

“However, I expected better results from China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi, who were top seeds and won three gold medals in four tournaments this year (Fuzhou, Stare Jablonki, Gstaad), but aren’t at the top of the rankings. I was also disappointed to see Olympic silver medalists Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego unable to maintain the rhythm of their games, due to Alison’s injuries in the beginning of the year.

“But, it was great to see so many Brazilian teams succeed this year. My favorite memory of the year was at the FIVB World Tour São Paulo Grand Slam, when Brazil’s Pedro Salgado/Bruno Schmidt defeated USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Casey Jennings. However, it was also exciting to see Jenning’s wife and Olympic champion Kerri Walsh win.

“With the FIVB World Tour Awards coming up, I would like to see some of the players recognised for their achievements this season. Specifically, I would personally vote for Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves as the most improved. He and Filipe beat Pedro Salgado and Bruno Schmidt at the Banco do Brasil Beach Volleyball Tour, and he looks stronger in every tournament. I also think Taiana Lima has also improved greatly this year. She seems to have adapted to her new partner, Talita Antunes, well this year.

“For the best blocker and most inspirational, I think that would be Brazil’s Ricardo Alex Costa Santos. His 22-year-old partner Alvaro Morais Filho would be my pick for best defense this year. Overall, I think this year’s most outstanding player was Latvia’s Janis Smedins, who leads the men’s 2013 FIVB Season Rankings with his partner Aleksandrs Samoilovs.

“With the 2016 Olympic Games in sight, it was interesting to see some of the pairs change. USA’s Kerri Walsh-Jennings playing with April Ross looks to be a great pair, although I would like it if it were me playing alongside Walsh.

“Whatever the teams decide during these years leading up to the next Olympic Games, it’s most important to keep the focus and motivation during practice. 

“The future of beach volleyball looks bright, and I hope to see more high level performances, bigger crowds and more televised games next year, and beyond.”

Sandra Pires is a three-time Olympian from Brazil. She won gold with Jackie Silva at the 1996 Games in Atlanta – the first year beach volleyball was introduced as a medal sport – bronze with Adriana Samuel in 2000 in Sydney and fifth place in Athens with Ana Paula Connelly. As a commentator for Globo Sport TV, Sandra has covered the London 2012 Games and the 2012 Brazilian national tour.

 

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Martin Laciga (SUI) - "It was a result which I for one was not expecting to see"


Lausanne, Switzerland, June 4, 2013 - As the curtains are drawn on the World Cup Final in Campinas (Brazil) former Swiss beach volleyball player, Martin Laciga takes a look back at some of the action and tells FIVB.org what he expects from the next Grand Slam to be held at The Hague from June 11 to 16.


 
“It has been a bumpy start to the year for Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego with Alison’s finger injury keeping them away from the Grand Slam competitions in Shanghai and Corrientes. And after a month away from the sand, it was clear that they had difficulty finding their rhythm during pool play at the World Cup Final in Campinas. But they held it together enough to get through to the gold match and then win it. It was a result, which I for one was not expecting to see.

“The World Cup Final also provided excellent experience for Switzerland’s Sebastian Chevallier and Philip Gabathuler, who were drawn into a tough pool. They played high quality beach volleyball and posed a real challenge to other competitors, even managing to beat Alison and Emanuel on day three of the competition. It was bad luck that they were not able to qualify for the semifinals, but they came close to it and it was good to see that they are developing their individual strengths especially as this was the first time they played together. 

“I am now looking forward to see what The Hague Grand Slam will bring and although my favourites going into the tournament are Americans Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson it looks like there are a few teams who could give them a good run for their money.  

 “The Latvian teams are getting stronger every week and gaining more experience with each and every competition.

“And as I have seen many times in the past, the Dutch teams always play a good game when on home soil and surrounded by the local crowd. Dutch volleyball legends Richard Schuil and Reinder Nummerdor have not played many events this year, so I am looking forward to see what they can achieve at The Hague Grand Slam. Their younger teammates, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen have shown much potential and seemed poised to make their mark on the tournament as well.

“The surprise pair of the season, Austrians Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl who won bronze at the Fuzhou Open could go very far in the tournament especially with their excellent control of the ball. Brazil’s Pedro Salgado and Bruno Schmidt who have played together this winter and have already notched a number of wins on the Brazilian circuit this year, have the playing experience necessary to unsettle the top seeds in the tournament.”

“If there is anything to be learnt from the tournaments over the past few months is that the quality of volleyball on offer is on the rise, which is making it difficult to say with any certainty who will be standing on the podium at the various events this year.

“All I can say is we are not done yet with the surprises on this year’s beach volleyball World Tour!”

Martin Laciga is a recently retired beach volleyball player from Switzerland. Partnering with his older sibling Paul, the Laciga brother won the silver medal in the men's beach team competition at the 1999 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Marseille, France. He has represented Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Athens where he placed fifth and Beijing where he finished ninth. He has also competed in seven FIVB World Championships (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011) and has won six international gold medals.

 

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Natalie Cook (AUS) - "Bring on the World Cup"


Lausanne, Switzerland, May 28, 2013 – Following hot on the heels of the Corrientes Grand Slam, Australian beach volleyball legend, Natalie Cook, gives us her impressions of the action on the courts over the five day event.

“What a tournament in Corrientes. For them to organise a Grand Slam in their first year shows what a great effort they put it.

“Night games are always a spectacle for our sport and all the athletes love going to new locations. I am sure the new event in Argentina, with the historical success of Martin Conde and Mariano Baracetti and the support from the fans, will live on for a long time.

“As for the winners, the Dutch girls Madelein Meppelink and Sophie van Gestel, it was an amazing result.

“As two tall, strong dynamic athletes, it was only a matter of time before they won gold. They launched onto the FIVB World Tour in 2011 and have just made huge steps. This is a great result for them and in a year of opportunity they have stamped some authority on the Tour.

“Both players have all the skills, at the net and in defence as well. Every chance they get they have been coached by Victor Anfiloff to power the ball in offence and transition and this is a huge advantage for them. Throw in their height and ball control and you have a great recipe for success.

“It was interesting to again see three German teams in the top eight and they are proving to have strength in depth.

“Then there were the Brazilians taking the silver and the bronze medals; Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli will be stoked to have won their first medal as a pair and Carolina and Maria Clara are returning to their best form of a few years ago with another bronze.

“Olympic silver medallists April Ross and Jennifer Kessy of the USA will be disappointed to miss out on the medals, but they showed that they are back in the hunt.

“Personally it was great to see the Aussie pair, Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy earning a good ninth place finish at a Grand Slam. In Clancy's first year this is great experience for her. Knowing they have big goals, I look forward to watching their progress.

“We now have a couple of weeks before the start of the next Grand Slam in The Hague. During that time some teams will go onto Brazil for the World Cup final. This is brand new event and exciting for our sport. I can't wait to see it.

“Others will take the opportunity to get some training in before The Hague and work on the fine tuning of skills and strategy. Serving, passing and transition are key parts of the game to work on in season. What an exciting few weeks ahead. Bring on the World Cup.”

Natalie Cook became the first Australian women to participate in five successive Olympic Games and is the only women to play in all five Olympic beach volleyball events. After making her debut on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 1993, Cook went on to win a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics and 2000 Olympic gold with Kerri Pottharst, before finishing fourth in Athens, fifth in Beijing and retiring after a 19th-place finish at the London Olympics. She is now running her own company Sandstorm which runs Oz Volley and Surf Volley programs, whilst ensuring new beach volleyball courts are being built off the beach to support the demand and the growth of beach volleyball.

 

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Sinjin Smith (USA) - "'There’s a lot of excitement this season"


 

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 23, 2013 – With two wins for American men in the first two FIVB beach volleyball events of the season, US beach volleyball legend Sinjin Smith sat down with FIVB.org to discuss his thoughts and expectations for the season.
 

"This year, the US men’s beach volleyball pairs are freshened up, with long-time duo Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers splitting, as 38-year-old Rogers plans to cut back on international play. By joining with new partner Sean Rosenthal, Dalhausser is able to play on the right side of the court. The move looks good so far, as the due took first place at their first tournament together in the Fuzhou Open.”

“Rosenthal’s former partner for seven years, Jake Gibb, is now paired with Casey Patterson. Their team also is proving strong, as they took home gold at the Shanghai Grand Slam, after a battle in the finals against Brazil’s Pedro Solberg Salgado/Bruno Oscar Schmidt.”

“There’s a lot of excitement this season, because last year, everyone knew who Dalhausser and Rogers were. There were no surprises. Rogers was very steady and technical, and Dalhausser was a beast with great control.”

“Nobody really knew how Dalhauser and Rosenthal would do this year. All they knew was that Rosenthal was a great athlete and he finished strong on the World Tour with Gibb last year, even though they fell short at the London Olympics.”

“Dalhausser and Rosenthal were either going to be that team that had more talent than any other team, and would challenge anyone – but have a hard time putting it together to win – or they would be the team who would win tournaments and everyone would be trying to knock off.”

“Winning early in the season says quite a bit for who they could be as a team. If they stay healthy, there is no reason why we won’t see them win consistently.”

“Even though Gibb proved himself with a great 2012 season, Gibb and Patterson were more of a wildcard this year, as Patterson hasn’t had much international experience thus far. A win this early in the season could mean great things for them, as long as it wasn’t a ‘flash in the pan.”

“It will still be a big test for Patterson to consistently perform at that level. But, there is nobody stronger or steadier than Gibb to push him through to the finish line. Another thing about Patterson – he is one of the most fun guys to watch, and plays with a ton of emotion.”

“Who else is good around the world? The answer is everybody."

"The thing that amazes me is that there is so much talent coming from all parts of the world, especially the young teams of Latvia's Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs, and Italy's Nicolai Paolo and Daniele Lupo. The young talent from many countries means a real fight for the guys who have been there for several years.”

“I am still amazed at how long and how successful 40-year-old Emanuel has competed.  He stands alone in both his success and longevity, and has proven that he still has the desire to play, which is the most difficult thing to maintain over such a long career.”

“He and Alison will be making their first appearance of the season at the Corrientes Grand Slam, after an injury to Alison’s finger kept them out of the first two events. The pair will have a tough time joining the tour when everyone else is settled in, but don’t count them out.

“If Emanuel stays healthy, the only thing that will stop his success on the tour is his desire. Our sport is lucky to have such a great athlete and a good person be a champion for the sport. Emanuel's experience and Alison's tenacity should put them right back at the top in the challenge for gold."

Sinjin Smith is a beach volleyball olympian and world-champion, dominating men's beach volleyball from the late 1980s to the early 1990s with partner Randy Stokles, as the "kings of the beach." Smith is a member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame (2003) and the California Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame (2002). He was instrumental in developing the World Tour in the beginning of FIVB beach volleyball and developing beach volleyball as an Olympic sport while serving as president of the FIVB World Council. Smith also was instrumental in developing Olympic programs and guidelines for organizers, as well as developing professional beach volleyball in the USA, including getting it aired on TV. Since retirement, Smith has worked to develop youth, collegiate, amateur and beach volleyball is the USA. He continues to serve on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Commission, to oversee the World Tour and Olympic Program. His efforts helped the World Tour return to the USA in 2013, with the Long Beach Grand Slam, to be held July 22-27, 2013. 

 

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Martin Laciga (SUI) - "Expect a Fuzhou-repeat in Shanghai"


Lausanne, Switzerland, April 29, 2013 - Switzerland’s Martin Laciga, who recently retired from international beach volleyball, provides his thoughts on last week’s Fuzhou Open and looks ahead to the first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event of the year – the Shanghai Grand Slam - where he believes the likes of the Americans, Italians and Brazilians to contest the medals again.

“It was a very interesting start to the new season with the Fuzhou Open in China.
 

“I was very impressed with the performance of the Austrian team Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl. It was great to see them playing against Ricardo Santos and Alvaro Filho in the bronze medal match. I know them very well and I played them many times. There are a lot of new teams playing together and the Austrians took advantage of being an experienced team and played well against these new teams.

“I was expecting the USA team of Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser to win the competition; I couldn’t really see a weakness in their game. They are the best team in this competition, they move very fast and they control the ball. It is clear for me that they will make it to the top of the rankings, but they won’t totally dominate as there are some other good teams – you could see this in their match against Brazilians.
 

“It is because Ricardo and his new partner Alvaro Filho are still not 100% precise; as a new team they need time to gel and other teams can use their lack of familiarity against them. That said, Ricardo’s new partner played really well. You could see that Alvaro Filho was under huge pressure, but his performances were great all the same. Having Ricardo as your partner must be challenging; he is left-handed, which should be an advantage as most of the players are right-handed.

“It is hard to predict the Shanghai Grand Slam, especially if other teams who didn’t play in Fuzhou come back. This is just the beginning of the season so everything can change.

“I would expect the same teams in the Shanghai finals, so Rosenthal and Dalhausser, Ricardo and Alvaro Filho, and the Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo. Of course, there is always the possibility that other teams will cause a surprise, especially now that blockers are so much taller. Some of them are almost two metres tall, therefore defensive players have to be strong and attack, otherwise blockers can dominate.

“It is important that other teams also have a chance to experience some success – this helps their confidence.

"Of course I hope for some success for the Swiss’ men’s team especially as Swiss ladies Nadine Zumkehr and Joana Heidrich are doing good job.”


Martin Laciga is a recently retired beach volleyball player from Switzerland. Partnering with his older sibling Paul, the Laciga brother won the silver medal in the men's beach team competition at the 1999 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Marseille, France. He has represented Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Athens where he placed fifth and Beijing where he finished ninth. He has also competed in seven FIVB World Championships (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011) and has won six international gold medals.

 

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Natalie Cook (AUS) - Impressed with “great start to new season”


 

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 29, 2013 - Earlier this year, Australian beach volleyball legend Natalie Cook predicted that China's Chen Xue and Zhang Xi would be a force to reckon with in 2013. Following the Chinese pair’s gold medal win at the recent Fuzhou Open, it looks that Cook’s forecast for the season may be right on the ball. In this piece, Cook provides her thoughts on last weekend’s Fuzhou action and looks ahead to the first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event of the year – the Shanghai Grand Slam.


“It was a great start to the new season with the highly entertaining Fuzhou Open in China.
 

“Chen Xue and Zhang Xi were deserved winners and I predicted the Chinese to be dominant this year. They breezed through this first event, played some very impressive beach volleyball on their way to winning the tournament and a China win in China is a great accomplishment.

“There were some interesting results, which is to be expected after a long break and post-London Olympics.

“The new teams from Brazil are finding their way, while some of the teams that have been together for a while have risen to the top, notably the Germans, the Spanish side of Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo who won silver, Italy and the second Dutch team of Sophie van Gestel and Madelein Meppelink who overthrew the other higher ranked and more experienced Dutch pairing of Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer.

“Summer Ross was one of the new faces that made a mark during the Fuzhou Open. She is only 20, fared well in age-group tournaments, has already played a few tournaments and in Fuzhou she and Brittany Hochevar enjoyed a good win over the Czech pair Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolokova in the pool stage.

“Her namesake April Ross and her long-time partner Jennifer Kessy will be hoping to bounce back at the next tournament, the Shanghai Grand Slam, the first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour competition of the year. They will be trying to make up for their elimination by Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler in Fuzhou, but I still think that Chen Xue and Zhang Xi will be too good for everyone.

“I also look forward to seeing how the Brazilian teams fare. They have led the way for a number of years now, but with Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca no longer still together there is the chance for one of the new Brazilian pairings to establish themselves at the top of the sport and I look forward to seeing which one breaks through first.”


Natalie Cook became the first Australian women to participate in five successive Olympic Games and is the only women to play in all five Olympic beach volleyball events. After making her debut on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 1993, Cook went on to win a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics and 2000 Olympic gold with Kerri Pottharst, before finishing fourth in Athens, fifth in Beijing and retiring after a 19th-place finish at the London Olympics. She is now running her own company Sandstorm which runs Oz Volley and Surf Volley programs, whilst ensuring new beach volleyball courts are being built off the beach to support the demand and the growth of beach volleyball.

 

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Sandra Pires (BRA) - “2013 can be anyone’s year”


Lausanne, Switzerland, April 19, 2013 - With just a few days until the beach volleyball season opening event, the Fuzhou Open, gets underway, Brazilian beach volleyball legend Sandra Pires, a 1996 Olympic champion and Sydney 2000 Olympic bronze medallist champion, looks ahead to the next nine months in which new female FIVB world champions and FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour winners will be crowned, as part of the FIVB blog series.

“Change is the only constant in life’ and no one is aware of this maxim as much as a beach volleyball player who has made the decision to retire.

“I can empathise with my colleagues who decided to leave professional competition after last year’s Olympic Games as it was probably not an easy decision to take. We’re all still competitors at heart and the thrill of chasing each point and thinking tactically will always be part of us, which sometimes makes it difficult to accept having to watch the action from the side lines.

“Nevertheless, it is pleasant to have the opportunity to wind down and take some time to work out where to go next. I know from personal experience that taking the step to start something new encourages personal growth. And when you move out of your comfort zone you are challenged to push the boundaries and achieve the best for yourself.

“The excitement is no doubt building for those beach volleyball players starting the season with a new partner. Having had the opportunity to partner with many excellent players during my career, I know how much work is involved in forming a cohesive unit, where each player understands the other’s style and timing.

“It is a process which requires time, patience and most of all respect and one in which two players get to know each other well given the amount of time they spend with each other over the season. But it is only in this way that both partners can work towards a common set of goals and priorities with success. I can tell there is no greater feeling than finding the perfect rhythm with the person beside you on the court, for this is when the magic happens!

“Unfortunately, there is no specific recipe to ensure that two excellent players will come together to form a winning team. And with so many new pairings for the 2013 beach volleyball season, it is difficult to make any prediction about who will win this year. 

“All I know is that 2013 can be anyone’s year and I am filled with anticipation to see the energy and enthusiasm this year’s crop of talent can bring to the courts.”

Sandra Pires is a three-time Olympian from Brazil. She won gold with Jackie Silva at the 1996 Games in Atlanta – the first year beach volleyball was introduced as a medal sport – bronze with Adriana Samuel in 2000 in Sydney and fifth place in Athens with Ana Paula Connelly. As a commentator for Globo Sport TV, Sandra has covered the London 2012 Games and the 2012 Brazilian national tour.

 

 

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Martin Laciga (SUI) - "It's time to pass the ball to the younger players"


Lausanne, Switzerland, February 13, 2013 - After a long and illustrious career in beach volleyball, Switzerland’s Martin Laciga recently announced his retirement from the sport. FIVB.org had the opportunity to sit down with him and find out more about his time in high-level competition and his views on the sport today.

"Taking the decision to stop playing professional beach volleyball was harder than ending my career itself. Although people had started talking about my retirement two or three years ago, I have always been so involved and happy playing my sport that every defeat just made me want to play and win more.

"I’m proof that a successful career of 20 years in beach volleyball is possible.  And when you are in a sport for this length of time you are always working towards a high set of goals.

"My retirement has coincided with that of other beach volleyball players of my generation, which is good, because it leaves room for the younger players to make their mark. I know that this will push up the level of the game. As players like me have already participated in three or four Olympics, it’s time to pass the ball to the young players and to give them a chance to take part in these events.

"It is encouraging to see the up and coming players in Switzerland like Nina Betschart, Joana Heidrich, Mirco Gerson and Gabriel Kissling.  You don’t need to say anything much to them now as they know what it means to compete internationally and they are highly motivated to keep going. They just need to keep their motivation level high and always try to improve. They are the best for their age but they know that they still have to tap more into their athletic and mental capabilities to keep going in the future.

"It’s good to see that other age level championships have been introduced to international beach volleyball. Tournaments like the under-23 championships provide young athletes with a great chance to perform on the international level as this is what increases their motivation as a player. It is also a great opportunity for young players to compete against others from around the world and to see how others train. This was what I found useful about international competitions when I was their age.

"While beach volleyball has taken me all around the world, I have to say that there is no greater pleasure than competing on home ground in front of your own family and friends. I particularly loved the ambience at the Gstaad centre court, which was always amazing. And an added benefit of competing at home was the proximity to my own bed after a hard day of competition!

"While I hope to continue my involvement with beach volleyball, I’m looking forward to also having the time to follow the career of some dynamic pairing such as Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal. And I am keen to see how far they go as a team in the World Championships. I’m also looking forward to seeing Polish teams in action as they showed us what Poland is capable of at the Olympic Games where their players showed that they can deal with the pressure of international tournaments. This year will definitely be an exciting one for beach volleyball and I look forward to seeing what the coming months will bring."


Martin Laciga is a recently retired beach volleyball player from Switzerland. Partnering with his older sibling Paul, the Laciga brother won the silver medal in the men's beach team competition at the 1999 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Marseille, France. He has represented Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Athens where he placed fifth and Beijing where he finished ninth. He has also competed in seven FIVB World Championships (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011) and has won six international gold medals.

 

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