FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Sao Paulo Grand Slam | 23 - 28 September 2014

#SaoPauloGS


Press release

Beach growing in the land of volleyball


Poland's Mariusz, Greogorz Fijelek are put of the development of the sport and were part of the 2014 FIVB Sao Paulo Grand Slam in Brazil.

Sao Paulo, Brazil, September 27, 2014 — About a week ago, volleyball fans all over Poland celebrated wildly as their men's team claimed a second FIVB Men's World Championship title with a 3-1 win over Brazil in Katowice, but Poland beach volleyball players Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel found themselves watching the historic match on TV, and in Rio de Janeiro of all places. They were preparing for the FIVB Sao Paulo Grand Slam. The 2014 FIVB World Tour was making the 10th stop of 10 in its grand slam portion of the tour.

"I think it was good the FIVB World Championships were in Poland in 2013," said Prudel. "We could see really good matches and people really enjoying it. People in Poland love volleyball and beach volleyball, it's always a great atmosphere in the stands."

Prudel's successful partnership with Fijalek is at the head of a growing surge of interest in beach volleyball in a country whose primary attention has always been indoor volleyball. The pair had won two silver and three bronze FIVB World Tour medals over four years since 2010, but found more consistency in 2014.

They added another silver at the Moscow Grand Slam in June before a first ever gold for any team from Poland at the The Hague Grand Slam in July, and they nearly made it two back-to-back, only losing in a tie-break to Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal at the Long Beach Grand Slam the week after.

Prudel started playing beach volleyball in 2005, won the European U23 Championships in 2008 (also alongside Fijalek) and has been making steady progress ever since. "Step by step we are practising," he said before noting their key influences. "We look how the Brazilians do it, and the Americans, and we try to be as good as them."

On the FIVB World Tour, Fijalek and Prudel are certainly familiar figures, something that Prudel feels is also changing back in Poland, saying they do get recognised by people, especially when they go to volleyball matches.

In the wake of Poland's number one pair, there is something of a gathering force, evidenced by the performance at the Sao Paulo Grand Slam of former U19 and U21, and current U23 world champions Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak, qualifying for their first ever FIVB World Tour semi-final before eventually securing the bronze medal.

And it's not just on the men's side either, two pairs from Poland who went through qualifying in the women's draw came fresh from gold and silver in the final of the European U22 Championships in Turkey, although the partnerships were switched here in Brazil.

Katarzyna Kociolek, who partnered Dorota Strag to silver in Turkey, teamed up with gold medallist Jagoda Gruszczynska at the Sao Paulo Grand Slam and, although they lost all their pool matches, took great confidence from pushing higher-ranked teams to three sets, including semi-finalists Maria Clara and Carol from Brazil.

"That was a really great game from our point of view," said 19-year-old Kociolek. "We had a tie-break with one of the best teams in the world, it was a great experience because we haven't had many chances to play with such great teams."

Kociolek had already played on the FIVB World Tour three times before Sao Paulo, at home at the Stare Jablonki Grand Slams in 2013 and 2014, and also at the Prague Open in the Czech Republic earlier this year.

Despite the previous experience, the performances of her partnership with Gruszczynska in Sao Paulo still surprised her, especially the close loss against the Brazilian 10th seeds. "Actually, we didn't expect that we could play like this," said Kociolek. "Just two balls decided that we lost that game."

Kociolek feels that the success of Fijalek and Prudel has been essential for the growth in interest of beach volleyball in Poland, and she for one hopes that it can get even bigger. "I think it's the most amazing sport in the world, will it be the same as volleyball in Poland? No. But I think it will become popular in a few years, at least I hope..."

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