Reggio Calabria, Italy, September 10, 2006: Brazil sounded a World Championships warning to their rivals by winning their third straight FIVB World Grand Prix title and sixth in all at the Palacalafiore on Sunday.
The Canaries, who lit up the tournament with their dazzling displays in the three qualifying rounds and Final Six, held off Russia 3-1 in a battle of attrition lasting 95 minutes.
Brazil won the first two sets 25-20, 25-20 before Russia hauled them back to 2-1 by taking the third 25-23. The South Americans were not to be denied, though, and romped home in the fourth 25-17 -- a difference of 16 points for the match telling its own story.
This enabled Brazil to complete the "three-peat" after taking gold in 2004 and 2005, and wrapped up a sixth title in 14 editions of the annual women's competition following victories in 1994, 1996 and 1998.
Russia had been hoping for a fourth title after their courageous comeback against Italy the previous evening, but had to settle for the silver, ahead of Italy, who took bronze, and Cuba, who finished fourth.
Sheilla Castro led all scorers with 22 points, 16 spikes and six service winners, and Walewska Oliveira excelled at the net with eight block points in her 11-point haul.
Russia's Ekaterina Gamova, who had pulverised Italy in the semi-finals, could score only 18 this time as the Russians were out-thought by the quicker and slicker Brazilian team.
The bronze medal match to start the afternoon had been worthy of a final.
The Italians looked to have the match wrapped up when they won the first two sets 25-17, 25-15.
The Cubans appeared to be lacking in motivation, but they finally found some fire in the third set and took the next two 25-23, 25-23 to force the tie-break.
But it was Italy who finished the stronger, and captain Simona Rinieri-Dennis closed out the set 15-11 on the Azzurre's second match point to spark wild scenes of celebrations inside the Palacalafiore.
Elisa Togut and Nancy Carrillo both scored 21 points for their respective teams in a bruising battle between these two fierce rivals.
The $500,000 prize money for the six teams in the final round was distributed thus: 1, Brazil $200,000; 2, Russia $100,000; 3, Italy $75,000; 4, Cuba $55,000; 5, China, $40,000; 6, Japan, $30,000.
The individual awards, each worth $5,000, went to: Best scorer, Ekaterina Gamova (Russia); best spiker, Fabiana Claudino (Brazil); best blocker, Sara Anzanello (Italy); best server, Nancy Carrillo (Cuba); best libero, Arlene Xavier (Brazil); best setter, Eleonora Lo Bianco (Italy).
MVP ($15,000), Sheilla Castro (Brazil).
World Grand Prix Roll of Honour: 1993 Cuba, 1994 Brazil, 1995 USA, 1996 Brazil, 1997 Russia, 1998 Brazil, 1999 Russia, 2000 Cuba, 2001 USA, 2002 Russia, 2003 China, 2004 Brazil, 2005 Brazil, 2006 Brazil.