FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Fuzhou Open 2016 | 19 - 24 avril 2016


Press release

Russians Road to Rio

Ekaterina Birlova seeks a second Olympic berth with Russian partner Evgeniya Ukolova.

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 18, 2016 - With seven events left during the qualifying period for the Beach Volleyball competition at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Russian pair of Ekaterina Birlova and Evgeniya Ukolova are seeking a different route to the quadrennial Summer Games.

For the London Games, Birlova and Ukolova qualified via the Continental Cup women’s competition.  The pair was part of the Russian teams that earned two spots for the 2012 Olympics by first capturing both the European confederation berth followed by a win in the Continental Cup finale with compatriots Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova.

For Rio, Birlova and Ukolova are in the chase for Copacabana via the FIVB World Tour qualifying route where 15 berths to Rio are available.  The Russian pair is currently ranked 16th on the provisional Olympic ranking list with 3,830 points and trail Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina by 40 points for the 15th spot.


With the No. 17 team (Natalia Dubovcova and Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic) trailing the Argentineans by 480 points, it appears it is a two-team race for the No. 15 spot between Gallay/Klug and Birlova/Ukolova.  The other teams will need to consistently post "final four" finishes in the upcoming "opens" in Fuzhou, Fortaleza, Sochi, Antalya and Cincinnati to gain ground on the Argentinean and Russian pairs.

To better their 12-best finishes, both Gallay/Klug and Birlova/Ukolova must post quarter-final finishes in the five "opens".  Both teams have five counted "240 point" finishes.  "Open" quarter-final finishes net a team 300 points.  Fourth-place finishes earn 350 points for a team, 400 for the bronze medal, 450 for the silver and 500 for the gold.  


Both teams entered last week’s FIVB stop in Xiamen tied for the 15th spot (3,830 points) with the Russians holding the edge by compiling more “overall” qualifying points than Gallay and Klug.  As fate would have it, the two teams meet in the first-round of elimination with the Argentineans posting a 2-0 (21-16, 22-20) win in 38 minutes ending Birlova and Ukolova’s competition with a 17th-place finish.

Gallay and Klug lost their next match to eventual bronze medal winners April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States to place ninth and increase their Rio ranking point total by 40 points to break the tie with Birlova and Ukolova.  The Xiamen match was the second FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams with the Argentineans also defeating Birlova and Ukolova in Xiamen last September 26 by a 2-0 (22-20, 29-27) in 49 minutes.


For the second-straight event in Xiamen, a team from “landlocked” Switzerland topped a FIVB World Tour podium as fifth-seeded Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre defeated European rivals from Germany and Austria to win the gold medal Sunday.  Fifth-place finishers Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr captured the Xiamen title last September for Switzerland.

Both Swiss pairs are ranked among the top 15 teams on the Rio provisional list with Forrer/Verge-Depre No. 10 and Heidrich/Zumkehr 90 points ahead of Gallay and Klug in the No. 14 spot.  To win gold in Xiamen Sunday, Forrer and Verge-Depre posted a 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-13) win in 45 minutes over 15th-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany in the semi-finals before scoring a 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) win over 29th seeded Austrian qualifiers Barbara Hansel and Stefanie Schwaiger in the 31-minute gold medal match.


Hansel and Schwaiger posted the event’s biggest upset in the semi-finals by overcoming a 12-point setback in the first set to defeat top-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh of the United States 2-1 (9-21, 21-18, 15-12) in a 46-minute semi-final match.  The Americans entered the Austrian match with an 18-1 record this season with a grand slam win in Rio last month.

“It was really amazing,” said Schwaiger.  We started in qualifications and we had nothing to lose.  So we said to ourselves after the first set, ‘we played with too much pressure and why? We are in the semifinals, we can win or lose, or we can just show up and play. I think it's the important thing that we switched.  So our attitude changed (in the second and third set), because we made too much pressure for us and we wanted to win, but anybody with that kind of pressure could not do it, so we said just play and enjoy the game. 
Schwaiger made a total of six aces from the second half of the second set to the end of the match and Hansel added one in the game-ending 4-1 run.  â€œWe had not really a good start, they made much pressure on us, somehow we kept them fighting and they had some pressure and then it went for us,” Hansel echoed.  â€œYou have to risk. They are such a good team. If you just make easy serves, they make the points. I don't know. We really had a good feeling at service, so we just tried to do our best,” said Schwaiger.


To qualify for the Olympics, a team must compete together in at least 12 FIVB World Tour events and/or recognized Continental championships from January 2015 through June 13, 2016.  A team’s best 12 finishes will be used to determine a tandem’s ranking.  A maximum of two teams per country is allowed to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Five pairs for each gender’s Olympic competition will qualify via Continental Cup action where each FIVB confederation is guaranteed a berth in the Rio 2016 Summer Games.  The last qualifying event will be July 6-10 when Russia hosts the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sochi.  The top two tandems from each gender from the Continental Cup qualifier will earn the last two pairs in the 24-team Olympic competitions.


Brazil has already qualified two teams in each gender’s competition for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Two pairs from the South American country captured the gold medals at the 2015 FIVB World Championships last July in The Hague (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas) to secure Copacabana compartments.  Being the host of the Rio Summer Games, Brazil was guaranteed two teams in the 24-team men’s and women’s fields (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca).

With all that said, Brazilian pairs cannot qualify another team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games through the FIVB World Tour.  Therefore, the ranking list excludes Brazilians in the ranking order as Alison/Bruno (7,050 points) and Evandro Pedro (6,130) are the top two teams on the men’s provisional points list for Rio.  Talita/Larissa (6,940) and Agatha/Barbara (6,870) rank 1-2 on the women’s provisional list.


The first berth for a women's team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was booked Sunday by Egypt after Doaa Elghobashy and Lamies Nossier led the north African country to the CAVB Continental Cup Final gold medal in Abuja, Nigeria.  Elghobashy and Nossie won two matches over teams from Rwanda, including a 2-0 (21-19, 21-19) “golden match” victory over Denyse Mutatsimpundu and Charlotte Nzatsinega.

After Elghobashy and Nossie defeated Rwanda's Judith Hakzimana and Seraphine Mukantambara 2-0 (21-14, 21-17), Mutatsimpundu and Nzatsinega forced the third and deciding match between the two countries with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) over Egypt's Nada Meawad and Randa Radwan.  

Nigeria defeated Mauritius 2-0 in the CAVB Continental Cup Final bronze medal match. The host country's Nnoruga Agatha and Ikhiede Fransisca defeated Heidi Bauda, Maita Cousin 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) in the first match and Agera Priscilla and Eyetsonetan Isabella Laju secured the bronze medal for Nigeria with a 2-0 (21-10, 21-16) victory over Mauritius’ Angelique Ramdoss and Vanessa Chellumben.

Other nations competing in the CAVB Continental Cup finale were Morocco, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Gambia, Mozambique and Ghana.  Both Rwanda and Nigeria are still in contention for a Rio 2016 Olympic berth as the two countries will represent the African confederation in the Continental Cup Finals July 4-10 in Sochi, Russia.  The final qualifying event for the Copacabana competition in August will also feature pairs from the Asian, European, North American and South American confederations.


• Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) - June 20-26 at Cairns, Australia (Australia, Thailand, China and three national federations to be determined).
• European Confederation (CEV) - June 22-25 at Stavanger, Norway (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland)
• South American Confederation (CSV) - June 20-26 at a site in Argentina to be announced (Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and three national federations to be determined).
• North American, Central American & Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) - June 20-26 at Acapulco, Mexico (Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United States and six national federations to be determined).


The next Rio qualifying stop on the FIVB World Tour will be in Fuzhou, China, the third of seven-straight weeks of women’s events on the international circuit followed by tournaments in Brazil (Fortaleza), Russia (Sochi and Moscow), Turkey (Antalya) and the United States (Cincinnati).  The last FIVB World Tour qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Summer Games will be June 7-12 in Hamburg, Germany.

• April 19-24 - Fuzhou (China) Open
• April 26-May 1 - Fortaleza (Brazil) Open
• May 3-8 - Sochi (Russia) Open
• May 10-15 - Antalya (Turkey) Open
• May 17-22 - Cincinnati (United States) Open
• May 24-29 - Moscow (Russia) Grand Slam
• June 7-12 - Hamburg (Germany) Grand Slam

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