January 7, 2004 - Four teams in both the women’s and men’s competitions will fight it out for an Olympic spot (one for each gender) at the 2004 Games in Athens in August and will join the already qualified Brazilian men’s and women’s teams as South American representatives when the South American Olympic Qualification tournament, begins in the Poliedro Stadium in Caracas, Venezuela on Friday.
In the women’s draw Peru will try to reach the Olympic Games in Athens as they did in Sydney 2000 and Atlanta 1996. Peru has a good Olympic record having won the silver medal at Seoul in 1988. From that team, veteran player Natalia Malaga is the only survivor and will be included by coach Carlos Aparicio in the starting line up with other Olympic players Leyla Chihuán, Patricia Soto, Milagros Moy and former Russians Natalia Romanova and Elena Keldivekova.
The Dominican Republic is the current Pan American champion and with the Peruvians stand as favorites for an Olympic spot. The Dominicans missed out on qualifying at the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament after losing to Cuba in “the final” in straight sets but now they have a second chance. Argentina and Venezuela are the other two teams vying for a spot and will do their best to reach the goal, especially the Argentines who played in the 2003 World Cup in Japan like Carolina Costagrande, María Laura Vincente and Paula Parisi.
In the men’s competition, the match between Argentina and Venezuela will be decisive to define the second South American team for the Olympics. Venezuela, coached by Miguel Cambero, played in the recent World Cup and is in good shape.
Cambero has said neither Peru nor Chile will represent a problem in sight of all the advances that his team has made (Pan-American gold and second position in the South American Championship). According to Cambero the key game will be on Sunday against the Argentineans, who now have their star player Marcos Milinkovic back after he missed the South American Championship. Ernardo Gómez and Tomás Ereu are the star players for Venezuela.
The first day on Friday sees women’s matches between Argentina and the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and Peru while the men’s draw sees Chile meet Argentina and Venezuela face Peru. The tournament finishes on Sunday.
Draw (times in local time)
Friday 09 / 01 / 2004
10:00 Women Argentina Vs. República Dominicana
13:00 Men Chile Vs. Argentina
16:00 Women Venezuela Vs. Perú
19:00 Men Perú Vs. Venezuela
Saturday 10 / 01 / 2004
10:00 women Perú Vs. Argentina
13:00 Men Argentina Vs. Perú
16:00 women Repúlblica Dominicana Vs. Venezuela
19:00 Men Venezuela Vs. Chile
Sunday 11 / 01 / 2004
09:00 women Perú Vs. República Dominicana
12:00 Men Chile Vs. Perú
15:00 women Venezuela Vs. Argentina
18:00 Men Argentina Vs. Venezuela