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Like the movie, the “Road to Rio” is complicated

London 2012 Olympic silver medal winner Jen Kessy (center) of the United States gets congratulated by coach Jose Loiola (right) after her second win Wednesday with Emily Day over a Russian pair.
Sochi, Russia, May 4, 2016 - For some observers watching the play here Wednesday on the four courts at the Sport Inn, it was just another day of Beach Volleyball competition as the US$150,000 Sochi Open began with two rounds of women’s pool play matches.

However, it was another day of jockeying for positions on the provisional ranking list for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the players on the FIVB World Tour where Wednesday’s wet conditions were a factor.  The Sochi Open is the 24th of 28 qualifying event for the Summer Games competition to be played August 6-18 on iconic Copacabana.


With 17 of the top 30 pairs on the Rio qualifying lists, excluding Brazilians, competing in the Sochi Open, seven of the tandems posted two wins each Wednesday.  Four of the teams will play each other Thursday where the winning team will gain a “bye” for the first-round of elimination Friday.  Here’s the ranked teams on the Olympic provisional list that are 2-0 in the Sochi Open and will be playing against each other Thursday.

Pool A - Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, Germany (No. 7, 4,800 Olympic qualifying points for their best 12 placements, needs a 5th or better to improve point total) vs. Fan Wang/Yuan Yue, China (No. 14, 4,090, 5th or better).

Pool E - Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug, Argentina (No. 15, 3,930, 5th or better) vs. Jantine van der Vlist/Sophie van Gestel, Netherlands (No. 23, 2,530 and adding since Sochi is the team’s 12th qualifying event for Rio).

Other top-ranked pairs on the Rio provisional ranking list that won two Sochi Open pool play matches Wednesday were Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth, Italy (Pool C, No. 5, 5,070, 5th or better), Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr, Switzerland (Pool D, No. 13, 4,120, 5th or better) and Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez, Spain (Pool F, No. 12, 4,320, 5th or better).

For two other pairs - Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude, Germany (Pool H, 4,350, 4th or better) and Emily Day/Jen Kessy, United States (Pool G, 3,980, 5th or better) - Wednesday’s successes also put them in position to gain ground on the second-place team from their countries on the Rio 2016 provisional list.

Laboureur and Sude are ranked fourth among German tandems with Borger and Buthe the No. 2 team from the European country on the Rio list with Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (4,450, 5th or better) the third-ranked pair.  Laboureur and Sude challenge Baquerizo and Fernandez for the pool F title Thursday while Holtwick and Semmler are 1-1 in Pool H and play Ekaterina Birlova/Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia (Pool H, No. 16, 3,830, 5th or better).for the group crown.

Day and Kessy posted wins over pair from France and Russia Wednesday and will meet Linline Matauatu and Pata Miller of Vanuatu (No. 17, 3,540, 5th or better) Thursday for the Pool G title.  After finishing fourth last week in Fortaleza, Matauatu and Miller dropped two matches Wednesday to Anastasia Barsuk/Alexandra Moiseeva of Russia and Alexandra Jupiter and Laura Longuet of France (No. 29, 1,670 and adding since Sochi is the team’s 12th qualifying event for Rio).

The Sochi Open has attracted women’s and men’s teams from 32 countries for the second annual event.  Following Thursday’s pool play matches, the elimination round matches begin Friday with the semi-finals Saturday.  The medal matches will be Sunday where the winning men’s and women’s pairs will each share the $11,000 first-place prizes.


Following Sochi, the final four FIVB World Tour qualifying events will be played in Turkey (Antalya, 10-15), the United States (Cincinnati, May 17-22), Moscow (May 24-29) and Germany (Hamburg, June 7-12).  Also counting towards Olympic qualification will be the European championships June 1-5 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.  The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be played August 6-18 on iconic Copacabana.

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