Polish U21 world champions to defend their title in Larnaka
Poland’s most successful youth pair took first place at the 2013 edition in Umag and in the past also collected gold at the Youth World Championships (2011) and the U18 and U20 European Championships (2012).
Also competing in the women’s competition are U19 world champions Eduarda Santos Lisboa and Taina Silva Bigi from Brazil and USA’s Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, who won bronze at last year’s U19 in Porto.
In the men’s competition Germany’s Clemens Wickler will be seeking another medal after he won gold last year with Moritz Reichert at the U19. In Larnaka he will have Mirko Schneider at his side.
More than 100 teams from all five continents have entered the FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships, which runs from July 23-27.
The qualification tournament starts at 8.00 on Wednesday with three rounds of single elimination. Four teams per gender can earn a spot in main draw.
The main tournament begins on Thursday with 6 pools of 6 teams per gender playing round robin. The top 4 of each pool will qualify for the final knockout phase.
Home country Cyprus will have 4 men’s and 6 women’s teams competing in the qualification tournament, in addition to the 2 teams per gender that are already in main draw.
According to Manolis Roumeliotis, the Greek coach of the Cypriot team, his players are a lot younger that the competitors from other countries. For example one of his female players, Evita Leonidou, will make her debut at 13 and is the youngest in the tournament. Katerina Zakchaiou is only 15.
“We are hopeful that our teams will perform well in front of the home fans, and for one or more of our teams to qualify into the next round”, Roumeliotis said at Tuesday’s press conference.
One of the female players, the 17-year old Zoi Constantopoulou, spoke highly of KOPE’s (Cyprus Volleyball Federation) growing efforts during the last few years to send athletes to participate in all major beach volleyball events worldwide, despite the recent economic crisis.
Her teammate Joanna Leonidou added: “It’s such a great honour to represent our country in such a prestigious tournament and to compete with so many talented athletes.”
On behalf of the men’s teams Minos Agathokleous promised to give their best in front of their home fans.
While the Cyprus Volleyball Federation has hosted several FIVB Challenger and Satellite events, this will be just the second event held in Larnaka as the city presented the 2012 U19 World Championships.
Larnaka is a city on the southern coast of Cyprus and with a population of around 75,000 the third largest city after Nicosia and Limassol. The tourist resort is known for its palm tree seafront.
The U21 World Championships are the third of four age group events on this year’s calendar. The U23 took place in Myslowice in June, last week the inaugural U17 happened in Mexico and next week Porto is hosting the U19 World Championships.
Young beach volleyball players will also have the chance to chase Olympic gold at the second edition of the Youth Olympic Games, Nanjing 2014, which take place from August 16 to 28.
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