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Lucky losers from Norway end up pool winners at the U21

Lucky losers Mathias Berntsen (right) and Runar Sannarnes from Norway topped the pool
Larnaka, Cyprus, July 26, 2014 - Norway’s Runar Torsvik Sannarnes and Mathias Berntsen topped their pool on Saturday at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships in Larnaka by defeating rivals Viktor Pestov and Kirill Gurin from Kazakhstan 2-0 (21-13, 21-13).

It was a bit unexpected since only two days ago the Norwegians were eliminated in the qualification tournament. But they were given a second chance as they advanced to the main draw as one of three lucky losers.

In pool A they won all five matches and only gave away one set to Switzerland’s Krattiger/Zandbergen. “We came as lucky losers and now we made it directly into the second elimination round. That’s great”, said Sannarnes after their win over Kazakhstan.

To be able to skip the first elimination round was very important to Berntsen. “For me that is very positive, because I am a bit tired and now I can recover a bit”, he said. Sannarnes added: “Especially since we started in qualification and have been playing for three days. So this is perfect.”

The 20-year old Sannarnes normally plays with Andreas Takvam – they won silver at the U19 in 2011 and finished 5th this year at the U23 - but Takvam is too old to participate at the U21.

For 18-year old Berntsen this is his first age group event, although he already made his debut on the World Tour. He finished 25th at the Stavanger Grand Slam a few weeks ago with Anders Mol.

Sannarnes and Berntsen are playing together for the first time. “We only had one week of practice before we came to Cyprus. But it is going well.”

They definitely have the potential to win a medal, Sannarnes said. “We have to play really well, but the chances are there.”

Russian qualifiers top pool C

Ilya Leshukov and Aleksander Margiev defeated Dutch team Jasper Bouter and Steven van de Velde in a tough three-setter (16-21, 21-17, 15-12) for top position in the pool.

The Russians lost the first set but came back strong to win the second. In the tiebreak they took a 5-0-lead, but the Dutch levelled at 11-11 to take a 12-11 lead themselves. With excellent block-defence play the Russians pushed forward and at 14-12 Leshukov claimed victory with a kill block.

Leshukov and Margiev came all the way from qualification to top a strong pool. “The last games against Austria and the Netherlands were very tough”, Leshukov said. “The opponents are getting stronger and stronger, but this was a good experience. It has been a big challenge.”

The Russians, who just recently finished 17th at the Anapa Open in their home country, had a lot of fans on Finikoudes beach. “The support is nice”, said Leshukov. “There are many Russians around, tourists but also people who live here. Many are original from Russia, but are now Cypriots.”

Now that they topped the pool, they will go for a bigger goal, Leshukov said. “Minimum a medal, final will be better. And the gold medal would be the best.”

The other pool winners are Brazil’s Andre/Vinicius, Poland’s Bryl/Kujawiak, Russia’s Yarzutkin/Stoyanovskiy and Germany’s Wickler/Schneider.

They all get a bye in the first knockout round, as do the two best numbers two Sorum/Mol from Norway and Thiercy/Di Giantommaso from France.

Both the first and second elimination round will be played on Saturday. The quarterfinals, semifinals and medal matches are scheduled for Sunday.

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