FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Long Beach Grand Slam | 18 - 23 August 2015

#WSOBV


Press release

Latvians feeling right at home in Long Beach


Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs (left) and Janis Smedins feeling at home in Long Beach during an interview with Phil Collin

Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 18, 2015 – Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins stepped into the courtside cabana and immediately noticed gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Phil Dalhausser.

The Latvian duo might have been a few thousand miles from their homeland, but they were right at home as they met the gathered media along with event CEO Leonard Armato, ASICS boss Kevin Wulff and the world’s top women’s team, Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk.

After all, an abdominal injury has limited Dalhausser to only two FIVB World Tour events in 2015. Walsh Jennings’ shoulder injury has allowed her to play in four. Samoilovs and Smedins have missed four after Smedins needed a procedure to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

So as they begin play in the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam in the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball this week, they at least have some kindred spirits as they chase Olympic qualification.

“It’s a hard year for us because I was injured and was out four tournaments and now we need to improve ourselves,” the 28-year-old Smedins said. “We have a long season ahead. We’re not sure about the Olympics now, but we will show our best and next year everything should be OK.”

Samoilovs and Smedins have played in the previous two tournaments on the TrueCar Courts at Alamitos Beach and placed fifth both times. Yet simply being part of an FIVB Grand Slam in California is right where they want to be.

“It’s amazing because I already played 10 years on the World Tour and the first seven years I was never in the United States because there wasn’t any world tour event, only AVP,” Samoilovs said. “I was dreaming to come to play in the United States, especially in California where beach volleyball was born. When I was a kid I watched it a lot on the Internet.

“After the London Olympics in 2012 I came here for vacation for two weeks and after a month, they announced it was going to be here and I was very happy.”

The $800,000 Long Beach event is the fourth of five Grand Slam events on the FIVB calendar, so Samoilovs and Smedins have a chance to move up on the points table, not to mention the money list.

Samoilovs and Smedins are starting to pick it up. On July 12, they scored a second-place finish in Gstaad, Switzerland where they dropped a three-game final to Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt.

But the Latvians understand the challenge they face in the changing landscape of Beach Volleyball. More and more, teams from winter-locked countries are training abroad instead of staying home and out of the cold.

Smedins, for example, would leave the beach after his season and head to Germany to play indoors and not get any extensive beach training.

“After the Olympics I said no to both because it’s very hard to pay nine months indoor, then three months Beach Volleyball and you don’t have free time,” Smedins said. “Now we have some free time to prepare better and we can make better results.”

Which the rest of the world is discovering.

“The level of the teams that don’t have summer year-round is growing,” Samoilovs said. “It has become a very competitive sport. Last year and this year you can’t say who will get a medal. Ten teams, 20 teams can get a medal. Last year in the Grand Slam in Berlin three teams from qualification were in the final four. For audiences, it’s nice.

“In tennis when you go you now, it’s (Rafa) Nadal or (Novak) Djokovic or (Roger) Federer will win all the time, the same faces. Here, every time it changes.”


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