World Tour review - On the cusp of change
Lausanne, Switzerland, December 24, 2012 - As part of an end-of-year review series, the FIVB takes a look back at the FIVB World Tour and what's in store for 2013.
The end of another Olympic cycle means that many teams who pushed themselves to the limit getting to London are taking a step back and looking at their options. Among the top teams of both the men’s and women’s divisions, the result has been a large number of splits, retirements, and newly-formed partnerships set to start their run towards Rio 2016.
Two of the most dominant teams in the history of women’s beach volleyball, USA's Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh and Larissa França/Juliana Felisberta Da Silva of Brazil, will not be on the Tour in 2013. May-Treanor announced her retirement from the sport immediately after the London Olympics, and Walsh is now expecting her third child.
Towards the end of the 2012 Tour – which ended with Larissa and Juliana as points champions for a record seventh time – Larissa announced her intention to stop playing, at least temporarily. Juliana will remain on the tour with a new partner, and with Talita Antunes and Maria Antonelli also dissolving their partnership at the end of 2012, the top Brazilian teams are in full flux going into 2013.
As with Brazil’s women, the top USA men’s pairs will go into 2013 with a clean slate. The World Tour champion team of Jake Gibb/Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers both announced they were ending their partnerships at the end of 2012 – and in this case, there’s at least some indication of what lies ahead. Rosenthal and Dalhausser have already decided to pair up and start their run at the 2016 Olympics. Rogers, at 38, is planning to cut back on international play.
A number of notable retirements, including Switzerland's Sascha Heyer and Simone Kuhn, Sara Göller of Germany, Austria's Sara Montagnolli, Norway's Tarjei Skarlund and Natalie Cook of Australia, change the field for young rising stars such as Poland's Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak, Nina Betschart and Anouk Vergé-Dépré of Switzerland, and USA's Summer Ross and Sara Hughes. The 2012 season marked a breakthrough for a number of teams. Latvian men’s pair Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins earned their first major tournament win in Stare Jablonki in August, Ekaterina Khomyakova and Evgenia Ukolova became Russia’s first Grand Slam winners in July at Klagenfurt.
Off the court, there are still more changes in store. The FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Council set a new vision for 2013 and beyond to capitalise on the tremendous momentum of the past year. The new approach will create new opportunities for players through a potentially record-breaking FIVB beach volleyball calendar in 2013. This will come partially from a reduction in approval criteria for FIVB Open events.
Starting in 2013, Grand Slams will be clearly established as the core events of the FIVB World Tour spread across the season. The number of Open events will be expanded, giving teams more opportunities and options to participate with the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stare Jablonki, Poland set to be the highlight the highlight in July.
New countries, such as Peru, Qatar and Uganda, are expected to host FIVB Open events for the first time in 2013. Meanwhile, USA could potentially be welcomed back for the first time since 2004 as part of a calendar likely to cover nine months of the year (March to December) and all five confederations. The success of the Continental Cup, which involved 149 countries over the two year programme, has encouraged many national federations to participate in other FIVB events setting things up for a landmark year for the World Tour in 2013.