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Olympic Beach Volleyball review – What to expect in Rio?

With their third consecutive Olympic gold medal in their pocket, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor celebrate their epic win at the 2012 Olympic Games in London

Lausanne, Switzerland, December 27, 2012 - As part of an end-of-year review series, the FIVB takes a look back at the success of beach volleyball at the London Olympic Games.

Even for the uninitiated it was clear that beach volleyball had stamped its mark at the 2012 Olympic Games.

The sport made headline news around the world and the top 10 of the best Olympic moments on the IOC website for all the right reasons: the quality of the players, the drama and surprise of the competition and the festive ambiance at the Horse Guards Parade. Not surprisingly nearly all the competitions were sold out and TV coverage of the beach volleyball matches had high ratings all through the Games.

USA’s Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh took their third straight Olympic gold victory against compatriots Jen Kessy and April Ross showing us exactly why they are the undisputed queens of beach volleyball. It was an all-American final, which saw world champions and number 1 seeds Brazilians Larissa França and Juliana Felisberta having to settle for bronze after their defeat by Kessy/Ross.

Brazil’s top-seeded men’s pair, Emmanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti also failed to win gold after being beaten in the final by Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann. Brink/Reckermann became the first German pair to win gold in any volleyball event and the first Europeans of either gender to win beach volleyball gold. Bronze medallist Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins won Latvia’s first medal at the 2012 Olympics. 

As the dust begins to settle, the question that is no doubt on everyone’s mind is, can the Games in Rio in 2016 top the action in London?

It’s true that the landscape for beach volleyball, especially in the women’s competition, will definitely be changed following Misty May-Treanor’s and Larissa França’s retirement this year. Although their partners Kerri Walsh and Juliana Felisberta will continue their careers, there is now some room for other rising stars to take centre stage.

Moreover with the current qualifying process, smaller nations now have the possibility  to participate more actively at the Olympics. And we've already seen some burgeoning talent in the likes of Natacha Rigobert and her partner Elodie Li Yuk of Mauritius. The duo qualified for their first Olympic beach volleyball tournament through the Beach Volleyball Continental Cup.

A total of 142 countries from around the world took part in the qualification process for the Olympic Games in 2012, with the debut of the Continental Cup and the World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament. Alongside Rigobert/Li Yuk from Mauritius, Argentina were also represented in the women’s tournament for the first time in the shape of Maria Virginia Zonta and Ana Gallay thanks to the Continental Cup.

On the men’s side Igor Hernandez and Jesus Villafane also made history by becoming the first Venezuelan team to qualify for an Olympic Games. Steven Grotowski and John Garcia-Thompson were Britain’s first men’s team to contest the event since its debut at the 1996 Atlanta games.

If the surprising gold and bronze medal success of Germany’s Brink/Reckermann and Latvia’s Plavins/Smedins is anything to go by, Rio 2016 will no doubt provide a platform for other beach volleyball pairs to show their mettle. 

London 2012 set out to “Inspire a Generation” and it won many plaudits from the critics for creating a fun, festive atmosphere at the beach volleyball matches. If Britain, a country without a beach volleyball tradition could draw such spectacular crowds, the future bodes well for volleyball hungry Brazil.

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