Van Iersel and Keizer out to become first European women to stand on Olympic podium
Marleen Van Iersel (right) and Sanne Keizer are aiming to be the first European women's team to win an Olympic beach volleyball medal|
London, Great Britain, July 27, 2012 - In the history of beach volleyball at the Olympic Games a European women’s team has yet to win a medal, but ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games and European champions Marleen Van Iersel and Sanne Keizer are spearheading the efforts of a number of teams from the continent, who are all aiming to be the first ever to finish on the Olympic podium.
The Dutch duo won their European crown earlier this year in front of the home fans in The Hague. It continued their impressive form as a pairing since they became the first European women to win back to back FIVB SWATCH World Tour events, when they won gold at the Shanghai and Myslowice Opens in 2011.
Van Iersel and Keizer have twice finished on the podium this year, with a silver in Gstaad and bronze in Beijing. Italy’s Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti are the most successful European side of 2012 with four medals, while Germany’s Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig and Switzerland’s Nadine Zumkehr and Simone Kuhn have also featured on the medal podium this season.
“The European teams are moving up the world rankings, whereas before it was only USA, Brazil and China,” Van Iersel said. “I think the Europeans have shown that we are getting there and that they have to be aware of us.
"I think it is definitely possible that a European team could win a medal. There’s Cicolari and Menegatti and Goller and Ludwig; they have a good chance.”
This Olympic promises to be one of the most open and unpredictable tournaments since beach volleyball was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1996 thanks in part to the rise of the European teams.
Even so the traditional powers remain as strong as ever. USA’s Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor will be defending the gold medals they won in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, while their compatriots April Ross and Jennifer Kessy will want to repeat their success from the 2009 FIVB World Championships.
China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi are out to improve on their bronze medal from four years ago and current world champions Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca will be out to add the one medal they don’t have in the collection when the action starts in London.
“I think Juliana and Larissa are one of the best and always a tough team to play against,” Van Iersel added.
Van Iersel and Keizer qualified for London at the start of the year at the Brasilia Open, the first tournament of 2012. The fact that they qualified almost six months before the action gets underway at Horse Guard’s Parade means that they have been able to focus on the preparation for London, which leaves them in confident mood.
“We qualified so early and after that it was a relief for us, because we could build our own programme of what events we would play, so it has been quite relaxing for us,” van Iersel said.
“Every now and then you think are we doing enough, are we doing the right things, are we going to be ready in time, but I think we are ready.”