Pires reviews beach season with her picks for best players
“All I know is that 2013 can be anyone’s year and I am filled with anticipation to see the energy and enthusiasm this year’s crop of talent can bring to the courts,” she said.
Now, with the season drawing to a close with one double-gender FIVB Open event remaining on December 11 to 15 in Durban, South Africa, Pires reviews the season with another exclusive blog post for FIVB.org.
“It surprised me to see Brazil’s Taiana Lima/Talita Antunes become World Champions so soon because they are a young team. But now they’re leading the 2013 FIVB Season Rankings. Pedro Solberg Salgado and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil also surprised me with their high performance during the season.
“However, I expected better results from China’s Chen Xue and Zhang Xi, who were top seeds and won three gold medals in four tournaments this year (Fuzhou, Stare Jablonki, Gstaad), but aren’t at the top of the rankings. I was also disappointed to see Olympic silver medalists Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego unable to maintain the rhythm of their games, due to Alison’s injuries in the beginning of the year.
“But, it was great to see so many Brazilian teams succeed this year. My favorite memory of the year was at the FIVB World Tour São Paulo Grand Slam, when Brazil’s Pedro Salgado/Bruno Schmidt defeated USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Casey Jennings. However, it was also exciting to see Jenning’s wife and Olympic champion Kerri Walsh win.
“With the FIVB World Tour Awards coming up, I would like to see some of the players recognised for their achievements this season. Specifically, I would personally vote for Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves as the most improved. He and Filipe beat Pedro Salgado and Bruno Schmidt at the Banco do Brasil Beach Volleyball Tour, and he looks stronger in every tournament. I also think Taiana Lima has also improved greatly this year. She seems to have adapted to her new partner, Talita Antunes, well this year.
“For the best blocker and most inspirational, I think that would be Brazil’s Ricardo Alex Costa Santos. His 22-year-old partner Alvaro Morais Filho would be my pick for best defense this year. Overall, I think this year’s most outstanding player was Latvia’s Janis Smedins, who leads the men’s 2013 FIVB Season Rankings with his partner Aleksandrs Samoilovs.
“With the 2016 Olympic Games in sight, it was interesting to see some of the pairs change. USA’s Kerri Walsh-Jennings playing with April Ross looks to be a great pair, although I would like it if it were me playing alongside Walsh.
“Whatever the teams decide during these years leading up to the next Olympic Games, it’s most important to keep the focus and motivation during practice.
“The future of beach volleyball looks bright, and I hope to see more high level performances, bigger crowds and more televised games next year, and beyond.”
Sandra Pires is a three-time Olympian from Brazil. She won gold with Jackie Silva at the 1996 Games in Atlanta – the first year beach volleyball was introduced as a medal sport – bronze with Adriana Samuel in 2000 in Sydney and fifth place in Athens with Ana Paula Connelly. As a commentator for Globo Sport TV, Sandra has covered the London 2012 Games and the 2012 Brazilian national tour.
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