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Beach Volleyball Continental Cup review - Outstanding debut for new Olympic qualification process

The Australian women's team, including record breaker Natalie Cook, celebrate gold at the Asia Continental Cup Final

Lausanne, Switzerland, December 29, 2012 – As part of an end-of-year review series, the FIVB takes a look back at the inaugural Beach Volleyball Continental Cup, which proved such a success leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

We might be still waiting for the final leg of the Continental Cup cycle – the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Cup Final – to take place (due in the beginning of 2013 in Brazil) but the Continental Cup itself can already be marked down as an outstanding success.

The Continental Cup, which is like the Davis Cup in tennis, provided a total of seven tickets to London – five to the Continental champions and two more vacancies via the FIVB Beach Volleyball Olympic Qualification Tournament contested between the second and third-place getters in each continent and the host country Russia. Teams earnt a spot for their country rather than the teams directly qualifying before actually players were confirned at the entry deadline on the eve of the Games. 

This broke the trend of previous Games where the complete Olympic quota of 23 teams (plus the host nation) was determined only via the World Tour (for London a total of 16 vacancies were determined by the World Tour Olympic rankings from 2011-2012). Now 142 countries participated in the Olympic qualification process which ran from 2010 to 2012 across 71 tournaments with a total of 54 organisers. Remarkable numbers, which have now set the tone for the next edition which is expected to get underway in 2014.

Such was the success of the Continental Cup, the FIVB Beach Volleyball Commission has changed the philosophy of the international beach volleyball season for 2013 and beyond with new organisers, new tournaments (Under 23), a record number of tournaments and new participants all expected with the aim to give more players around the world to play at the top level.

We must salute the organisers and players who embraced the Continental Cup when it launched in 2010 and what looks now to be a permanent part of the FIVB furniture.

Looking back at the inaugural edition, any beach volleyball nation looking for a place in the London Olympics had to be in the qualifiers for the long haul as the elimination process took three years but this gave countries - some who had never participated in an FIVB event before – the chance to participate in the Olympic qualification process - a very proud moment. The regional Continental Cups would play a large part in determining who got to strut their stuff at Horse Guards Parade in the centre of London.

Olympic qualification was one thing; just as important was the pride in the competitors being able to call themselves the champions of Europe/Africa/Asia/NORCECA/South America.

“We were strong like Vikings,” said Iver Horrem after Norway’s men overcame the Netherlands 3-2 in Alanya, Turkey, to clinch the European title and secure their spot in the Olympics. Horrem, Tarjei Skarlund, Martin Spinnangr and Geir Eithun provided the power to down the Dutch, who lost 16-14 in the decider. Poland edged Italy for the bronze. On the women’s side, Russia (Anastasia Vasina, Anna Vozakova, Evgenia Ukolova, Ekaterina Khomyakova) used home advantage to take the title, with the unlucky Dutch again the unfortunate losers (3-1). Switzerland beat Italy to take the bronze.

South America
Surprises all around in South America as Venezuela’s men and Argentina’s women took the titles and both teams qualified for the Olympics for the first time. Argentina’s women (Georgina Klug, Silvana Olivera, Ana Gallay, Virginia Zonta) scored a 3-1 victory over Uruguay on home soil in Santa Fe while Venezuela (Igor Hernandez, Jesus Villafanez, Jackson Henriquez, Farid Mussa) whitewashed Chile 4-0, also on home soil.  

It was Canada all the way in the NORCECA Continental Cup as both the men and the women captured gold and tickets to London. “It was like a dream coming true,” said Elizabeth Maloney after the women (Heather Barnsley, Maloney, Annie Martin, Marie Andree) breezed past hosts Mexico (Vanessa Virgen, Martha Revuelta, Mayra Garcia, Bibi Candelas) 3-0. Puerto Rico took bronze with a tough 2-1 win over Costa Rica. Mexico (Aldo Miramontes, Juan Virgen, Ulises Ontiveros, Rodolfo Ontiveros) were also the fall-guys in the men’s final as they lost 3-1 to the Canadians (Martin Reader, Johsh Binstock, Christian Redmann, Benjamin Saxton). “It was my dream to go to the Olympics since I was 11 years old,” a jubilant Binstock stated. Cuba beat Puerto Rico for third place.

Experience helped Australia’s women (Mariafe Artacho, Taliqua Clancy, Natalie Cook, Tamsin Hinchley) as they overcame China (Wang Fan, Yue Yuan, Zhang Changning, Ma Yuanyuan) 3-0 in Fuzhou, China. The victory meant Cook would appear in her fifth Olympic Games, the first female beach volleyball player to do so. Kazakhstan overcame Thailand for third place. Australia were surprisingly unable to make it a glorious double as their men’s team (Cristopher McHugh, Joshua Slack, Sam Boehm, Isaac Kapa), who were the top seeds in the tournament, were stunned 3-1 by Japan (Shinpei Aoki, Yujiro Hidaka, Kentaro Asahi, Katsuhiro Shiratori), with China dumping Indonesia for third place.

The Mauritius women’s team had to fight hard for their ticket to London before downing Kenya 3-2 in Gusenyi, Rwanda. The All Africa Games champions were on the verge of losing in the fourth match before fighting back and taking the tiebreaker 15-8. Mozambique defeated South Africa for third place. In the men’s competition, South Africa (Freedom Chiya, Grant Goldschmidt, Jerome Fredericks, Leo Williams) became the first country to seal an Olympic spot by edging Angola (Morais Abreu, Marcio Silva, Eden Sequeira, Marcio Sequeira) 3-2 in an intense battle in Flic en Flac, Mauritius. Nigeria took third with a 3-1 win over Congo. 

The World Cup Olympic Qualification tournament held in Moscow, Russia saw the hosts book spots in both genders along with Austria men and the Netherlands in the women's competition.

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