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World Championships, SWATCH Grand Slams Highlight 2009 Season

The players on the top teams on the 2009 SWATCH World Tour were Brazilians Juliana Felisberta Silva (top left) and Larissa Franca (top right) and Germans Jonas Reckermann (bottom left blocking) and Julius Brink (bottom right digging)

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND, December 3, 2009 - The world championships in Norway followed by SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam events in Switzerland, Russia, France and Austria highlighted the 2009 international Beach Volleyball campaign as US$7.2-million in prize money was distributed at 18 events in 15 countries.

The 18 SWATCH FIVB World Tour events attracted competitors from 46 countries from all five FIVB confederations as the total participation number featured 748 players, including 401 men and 307 women.  A total of 444 teams were formed as the pairs of Julius Brink/Jonas Reckermann of Germany and Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca finished the season as the top teams on the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour.

Prior to becoming only the fourth non-Brazilian men’s team to win the “tour” championship, Brink and Reckermann captured the 2009 SWATCH World Championships in Stavanger where the Germans defeated Alison Cerutti and Harley Marques of Brazil 21-16 and 21-19 in the 50-minute finale to capture the $60,000 first-place prize.

Brink and Reckermann capitalized on their Stavanger success to win the first two SWATCH Grand Slam events in Switzerland and Russia by defeating 2003 world champions and 2004 Olympic gold medal winners Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos in thrilling three-set finales in Gstaad and Moscow.

The German champions also set a SWATCH FIVB World Tour record for most consecutive match wins (25) by a men’s team as Brink and Reckermann won eight, seven and seven matches enroute to gold medals in Stavanger, Gstaad and Moscow along with three more in the French Grand Slam where American Olympic champions Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers ended the streak in the Marseille semi-final.

Combined with a gold medal win in Rome during the inaugural SWATCH FIVB World Tour event in the Italian capital, Brink and Reckermann finished the season by winning four of six title matches with eight podium placements, nine “final four” finishes and $274,200 in earnings.  Brink and Reckermann’s accomplishments were the best-ever by a German men’s or women’s team in the 23-season history of the international circuit.

With Alison and Harley finishing as the No. 2-ranked team on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour with two gold medals in Shanghai and Myslowice, Poland during the build-up in May for the world championships, Dutchmen Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil finished the season with three-straight titles in Finland, The Netherlands and China.

The three consecutive gold medal finishes marked the first-time the same men’s team had won the last three SWATCH FIVB World Tour events.  Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede of Brazil accomplished the feat twice on the women’s tour in 1998 and 1999.  Nummerdor and Schuil, who also won their second-straight European continental championship, finished fourth in the SWATCH tour rankings behind Spaniards Adriana Gavira and Pablo Herrera.

Juliana and Larissa set a SWATCH FIVB World Tour single-season record for most gold medals as the Brazilians topped the podium eight times with 10 appearances in finals and 11 podium placements for 13 events with $368,100 in winnings.  The “tour” championship was Juliana and Larissa’s fourth in the past five years.  Their 2008 effort was halted when Juliana suffered a right knee injury that resulted in surgery that forced her to withdraw from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

The teams of Jen Kessy/April Ross of the United States and Talita Antunes/Maria Antonelli of Brazil spoiled Juliana and Larissa’s bid for two more gold medals.  While Talita and Antonelli defeated their Brazilian rivals for the Swiss Grand Slam gold medal in Gstaad, Kessy and Ross upset Juliana and Larissa for the world championship title in Norway.

With their 30-28 and 23-21 win in the 58-minute Stavanger finale, Kessy and Ross retained the world championship title for the United States as compatriots Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh topped the podium at the SWATCH World Championships in 2003 (Rio de Janeiro), 2005 (Berlin) and 2007 (Gstaad).  The two-time Olympic champions missed the 2009 international scene as Walsh gave birth to her son (Joey) in May while May-Treanor was rehabbing from Achilles tendon surgery.
While Kessy and Ross also won SWATCH gold medals in France and Thailand to finish third on the season’s point’s list, Talita and Antonelli captured four FIVB gold medals in 2009 to place second on the ranking’s list while compiling $308,950 in earnings.  Kessy and Ross competed in seven finals and placed on the podium nine times in 12 events.

The next-to-last women’s event produced the “biggest surprise” on the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar as Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr captured Switzerland’s first-ever FIVB gold medal by upsetting Kessy and Ross 17-21, 22-20 and 15-13 in the 60-minute finale in Sanya, China.  The fourth-place finish by Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti in Sanya also marked the first appearance by an Italian women’s team in a SWATCH semi-final since 2001.

At the end of the season, Harley, Schuil and Juliana captured the top honors as the SWATCH most outstanding players for the 2009 season.  Harley and Schuil tied for the men’s MOP award as each were honored three times during the season as an event’s top player.  Juliana captured four MOP event honors.

Other 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour award winners were Phil Dalhausser of the United States, Igor Kolodinsky of Russia, Reckermann, Nummerdor, Alison Cerutti of Brazil, Ruslans Sorokins of Latvia and Rivo Vesik of Estonia.  Reckermann unseated Dalhausser as the FIVB’s top blocker as the American had won the honor in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In addition to finishing second in the blocking voting, Dalhausser was honored as the SWATCH FIVB World Tour’s top offensive player along with being the best setter and hitter.  It was Dalhausser’s third hitting honor, second offensive player award and first-time topping the setting list.  Kolodinsky was the SWATCH top server for the third-straight season as the Russian’s top 2009 serve was recorded at 113.7 km/h at an event in Moscow.

Nummerdor was named the top defender, Cerutti was picked as the most improved, Vesik chosen as the top sportsman and Sorokins was honored as the rookie-of-the-year.  Sorokins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs won Latvia’s first SWATCH FIVB World Tour medal by placing second at the event in Kristiansand, Norway.

In addition to winning the most outstanding player honor Juliana was also named the FIVB’s top blocker.  Juliana, the FIVB’s top hitter in 2006, was also third in the voting for top offensive player and best hitter in 2009.  Larissa, the 2006 SWATCH most outstanding player, was named as the 2009 tour’s top setter and defensive player in 2009.  She has now won the setting award the past four seasons as Greece’s Vasso Karadassiou tied Larissa for the honor in 2008.  Larissa was also the SWATCH FIVB World Tour’s top hitter in 2008.

Also capturing 2009 individual awards were Louise Bawden of Australia, Brazilians Shelda Bede and Maria Clara Salgado, Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands, and Angie Akers and April Ross of the United States.  Bawden and Akers tied for the rookie-of-the-year honor on the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour.  Both playing in their first-full international season, Bawden and Akers collected silver medals this season.  Bawden and Becchara Palmer placed second in Poland where the Aussies dropped the Stare Jablonki finale to Juliana and Larissa.

After winning her first international medal at last month’s stop in China, Akers teamed with Tyra Turner to place second in Thailand the next week where they dropped the All-American Phuket finale to Ross and Kessy.  Akers and Turner finished the season with three semi-final appearances, $128,900 in winnings and No. 5 in team points.

In addition to winning her fifth-straight most inspirational player award, the 36-year old Shelda was also honored as the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Tour’s sportswoman of the year.  Shelda, who played her final international event in September at Barcelona, was the circuit’s top defender in 2005 and 2006 and a member of seven tour championship teams.

A 2008 junior world champion, Van Iersel was named the 2009 most improved player as she finished the SWATCH FIVB World Tour season as part of the No. 6-ranked team with Sanne Keizer.  Ross topped the voting as the best offensive player and hitter and finished third behind Maria Clara and Larissa for the top serving honor.  Maria Clara won the serving honor for the second-straight season with a record serve of 86.5 km/h at the world championships.

The 2009 international Beach Volleyball season also featured the youth and junior world championships in Turkey and England, respectively.  The SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar began in the Brazilian capital of Brasília during the last full week of April and concluded in the first full week of November in Thailand.


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