Moscow, Russia, July 1, 2012—Playing out a theme from movies past, from Russia with love Sunday brought the final two countries into women’s Olympic berths as the Netherlands and Russia captured tickets to London with victories in the double-gender 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament in Moscow. Two teams from each gender have emerged with the final spots in the field of 24 for this month’s 2012 London Olympic Games.
With all of the country placements in the 24-team Olympic field for each gender now identified, the official country nominations for individual teams will be announced on July 9 by the FIVB. The beach volleyball competition in the 2012 London Olympic Games will be held in a purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium at the iconic Horse Guards Parade in central London from July 28 through August 9.
To earn their spots in the XXX Olympiad and fifth with beach volleyball as a medal sport, Netherlands beat Italy, 2-0 and Russia defeated China, 2-0 at Vodny Stadium on the grounds of the Vodny Royal Yacht Club for the last two berths for London on Sunday.
The Italy against the Netherlands match-up opened the sunny day at Vodny Stadium and the expected drama, intensity as well as tight matches played out dramatically.
In the first match of the day, Netherlands’ Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel overcame their nerves and came from behind to defeat Italy’s Daniela Gioria/Giulia Momoli in three sets, 13-21, 21-14 and 15-10 in 45 minutes. Meppelin/van Gestel have played in 10 FIVB SWATCH World Tour events together with a career-best fifth place finish in the recent Moscow Grand Slam.
In the second country match-up to determine the country that would earn another spot in the Olympics, Netherlands’ Rimke Braakman/Michelle Stiekema stopped Italy’s Laura Giombini/Viktoria Orsi Toth in two sets, 21-19, 21-19 in 39 minutes. Netherlands ended the event with a 5-1 record while Italy was 4-1. As a team, Giombini/Orsi Torth have played in eight FIVB SWATCH World Tour events as a team.
The final country match-up started similar to the first with the winning team losing the first set but then coming back to win the second set and the tie-breaker to earn the win. In that first match-up, Russia’s Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakova overcame China’s Yuanyuan Ma/Changning Zhang, 17-21, 21-16 and 15-10 in 43 minutes. As a team, Vasina/Vozakova have played in 15 events on the FIVB SWATCH World with three ninths, one 13th, and four 17th-place as their best finishes to date.
In the last women’s country match-up of the day late Sunday afternoon, Russia’s Maria Bratkova/Svetlana Popova sealed a second spot in the Olympic games for their country with a hard-fought three-set win over China’s Fan Wang/Yuan Yue, 21-18, 17-21 and 15-11 in 49 minutes. As a duo, Bratkova/Popova have played in two FIVB SWATCH World Tour stops with a best of ninth in this year’s Moscow Grand Slam held three weeks ago.
Russia finished the tournament with a perfect 6-0 record while China completed its gallant quest with a final tally of 3-2.
In her first season on the FIVB SWATCH World Tour, Netherlands’ van Gestel, just 21, who just last September won the bronze medal with Braakman in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in the FIVB SWATCH Junior World Championships for players under 21 years old, was nearly left speechless after her country’s victory over Italy.
“We were so nervous in the first set and it showed as we both made many mistakes and the Italians were playing with a lot of emotion,” commented van Gestel once the second match secured Netherlands its second placement in this year’s women’s Olympic lineup. “We obviously settled down and I made some strong serves and Madelein was had many, many strong blocks at the net. We are so overcome right now with joy it’s hard to put into words. This qualifying process for us was truly a team process and together with Rimke and Michelle we have earned another spot for Netherlands. Unbelievable.”
Equally as pleased for her country to be able to have two teams in this year’s women’s field in London, Russia’s Vozakova said, “I can't express my feelings now, I can't say much now, because now it's done - we are going to London. Big thanks to our second team Maria Bratkova and Svetlana Popova. They have done a huge job and helped us to get an Olympic ticket. These weeks are the most important in my life - last week Russia won the CEV Continental Cup Final and now we have won the World Cup for Russia. It's fantastic. Now we must prepare for the London and try to show there our best beach volleyball.”
With the road to London clearly before them, 22 teams representing 11 countries had two women’s teams each in Moscow as the women played four or five rounds of pool play for two pools, one with six countries and one with five prior to Sunday’s final country match-ups.
Besides the four countries playing in the advancement matches Sunday, the other women’s teams who earned participation in the tournament in Moscow and their final records were Mexico (3-2), Switzerland (2-2), Uruguay (1-3), Kazakhstan (1-4), Venezuela (1-4), Kenya (0-4) and Mozambique (0-5). Countries who had two teams each in both the men and women’s competition were China, Netherlands, Mexico, Russia and Uruguay.
Overall 47 teams representing 17 countries had two teams each among the men and women teams competing in Moscow this week at Vodny Stadium on the grounds of the Royal Yacht Club on the banks the Moscow River.
Russia entered the tournament as the host nation while all the other teams except Italy qualified as the second and third place finishers at each of the FIVB Continental Cup Finals. Italy qualified as the fourth place team at the Europe Continental Cup as the CEV was previously selected to fill the field due to the need to have an extra team because the host nation (Russia) competed in the event.
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