FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championship

Press release

Russia stirs up women’s teams in final attempt to make it to Rio

Russia has mixed up the teams, Anastasia Barsuk (left) partnered up with Evgenia Ukolova

Sochi, Russia, July 6, 2016 – The pressure is on, this week at the FIVB World Continental Cup in Sochi. Especially for host country Russia. This is the final qualifying moment for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and so far the Russian women were not able to grab a ticket for the 2016 Olympics.

The 2012 Olympians Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Birlova, who finished 9th at the London Olympic Games, missed out on qualifying through the World Tour ranking just by a couple of points. An attempt to qualify through the CEV Continental Cup stranded two weeks ago in the eighth final, where France knocked them out. But as hosting country they were guaranteed a spot in Sochi.

Reason for the coaches to make some changes. They split up long time-partners Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Birlova. Ukolova teamed up with Anastasia Barsuk and Birlova has U21 silver medallist Nadezda Makroguzova at her side, who replaces Alexandra Moiseeva.

“It was a decision from the coaches”, Ukolova commented on the mix up of the teams. “We heard only one week before. We try to focus on what we can do on the court. Because we can’t change anything, so we try to do our best with these new combinations. Our goal is to get this ticket to Rio and then we will think and decide.”

The new teams did indeed start with success on Wednesday, defeating Mexico 2-0. Birlova and Makroguzova defeated Diana Estrada and Zaira Orellana 21-14, 21-16 and Ukulova and Barsuk were far too strong for Claudia Rios and Gloria Santoyo: 21-9, 21-8.

“We started with not the strongest opponents in this tournament”, Ukolova admitted. “But this was good, so we could feel the court and the atmosphere. Our game is not perfect yet, but I think we will play better and better each game.”

In pool B Austria started their campaign with a 2-0 win over Ukraine. Stefanie Schwaiger and Barbara Hansel defeated the Ukraine twins Inna and Iryna Makhno 25-23, 21-12 and Katharina Schützenhöfer and Lena Plesiutschnig booked a 21-12, 21,17 win over Valentyna Davidova and Ievgeniia Schchypkova.

Austria finished fourth at the CEV Continental Cup final, but was granted a spot in Sochi to complete the pool since host country Russia was guaranteed a berth. “We were really lucky to be here”, said Schwaiger. “And now we have this second chance and we want to grab it.”

The 29-year old Schwaiger is the only one out of the four Austrian players with Olympic experience. She finished 5th at the 2008 Beijing and the 2012 London Olympics with her sister Doris. “It would be nice to be in three Olympic Games”, she said. “It would be a big dream come true.”

Their first match in Sochi was not an easy one, but they knew upfront. Austria lost to the Ukrainians in the semifinals at the CEV CCUP in Stavanger just two weeks ago.

Hansel: “It was not an easy start. It was really hot and deep sand, conditions were you have to challenge yourself and always keep on fighting. It was close the first set and we were also down at the end, but we did it.”

“Whoever handles these conditions the best will win this tournament”, Schwaiger added. “It’s hot, it’s deep sand. For everyone it’s the same. But who will handle this the best will win the tournament.”

It’s not official yet, but if Austria wins, Schwaiger and Hansel are likely the ones who get on the plane to Rio. This makes the Continental Cup set-up, where two couples from the same country team up but can only earn one ticket.

“It’s special”, said Hansel. “Normally the teams from your country are also your rivals. On one hand it’s nice, because you are a bigger team and you get to cheer for the others. But it’s not totally fair that you fight with two teams and only one gets to go. But our other team is really young, it’s a good experience for them and they can get some points.”

Nine countries, divided over two pools, compete in the women’s tournament in a best-of-three round robin system. The pool winners advance to the semifinals, the numbers two and three play cross matches to decide who fills up the other two spots in the semis. The two countries that win the semifinals earn a ticket to Rio. The federation decides which team will go.

Quick links:

FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification - Website
Men - Results/Schedule
Women - Results/Schedule

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