Moscow medal matches share similar feel for North Americans
Moscow, Russia, May 29, 2016 - The 2015 Moscow Grand Slam was not the “best of times” for the two best women’s Beach Volleyball teams on the North American continent, but those pairs’ performances here Sunday will be memorable times for the tandems of April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings and Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan.
The “best” moment came in the 2016 Moscow Grand Slam title match as the third-seeded Ross and Walsh Jennings of the United States avenged two previous gold medal setbacks to second-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca by posting a podium-topping 2-0 (22-20, 21-17) win in 36 minutes over the defending Russian capital champions from Brazil.
In addition to snapping a two-match losing streak to Talita and Larissa, the gold medal finish came after the Americans finished 17th at the 2015 Moscow Grand Slam due to forfeiting two matches due to a dislocated right shoulder for Walsh Jennings in a pool play match.
Ross and Walsh Jennings entered last May’s event after winning the 2014 Moscow Grand Slam gold medal by defeating Talita and Taiana Lima in the three-set finale. Shortly after that event, Talita split with Lima and joined forces with Larissa as the pair has won 12 of their 20 FIVB World Tour starts together. Sunday’s setback was also Talita and Larissa’s first gold medal setback in 13 matches.
Prior to the women’s finale, Bansley and Pavan redeemed themselves in the Russian capital after winning the bronze medal match 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) in 38 minutes over Lima and Juliana Felisberta. The redemption was due to the Canadians placing 25th in the 2015 Moscow Grand Slam despite defeating Talita and Larissa in a three-set pool play match.
With the FIVB World Tour returning to the Russian capital for the ninth-straight season, Ross and Walsh Jennings split the $57,000 first-place prize in winning their second FIVB Grand Slam event this season with the first coming in mid-March on the same Copacabana site where the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be staged August 6-18.
With seven-straight wins this week combined with a “perfect” 7-0 match mark to win last week’s Cincinnati Open in the United States, Ross and Walsh Jennings are now the top-ranked team on the 2015-20-16 FIVB World Tour with four gold medals and six podium placements to their credit this season. The Americans have a 40-2 match this year with 22-straight wins.
Talita and Larissa, who shared $43,000 for the silver medal finish, had previously scored a 2-0 (22-20, 21-19) gold medal victory in 39 minutes over Ross and Walsh Jennings at this past March’s FIVB World Tour stop in Vitoria, Brazil. The two teams also met for gold last August in the United States with the Brazilians also winning in two sets at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach.
Sunday’s women’s finale was the 93rd meeting between Brazil and the United States for a gold medal. Brazil had won 50 of the 92 previous title meetings with the Americans. With the title, Walsh Jennings has now won 53 FIVB World Tour gold medals to rank second to Larissa’s 58 on the all-time list. Ross is tied forninth on the international gold medal list with Holly McPeak with 19 titles each.
After eight-straight weeks of FIVB World Tour play in Qatar, China, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and the United States, the international circuit will take a week off before resuming play June 7-12 in Hamburg, Germany for the first of five SWATCH Major Series events.
The $800,000 Hamburg Major will be the last FIVB World Tour qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the process started in April 2015 with events in China. With 24 teams competing in each gender’s Beach Volleyball competition at the Rio Summer Games, the top 15 pairs, excluding Brazilians with a maximum of two teams per country, will qualify for the Copacabana quadrennial from the FIVB World Tour.
Brazil earned its two Olympic spots per gender by winning the 2015 men’s (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt) and women’s (Agatha/Barbara) FIVB World Championships along with host nation berths (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Talita/Larissa). The seven remaining berths for the Rio Olympics will be determined via the Continental Cup format.