Ukolova and Khomyakova win first Russian gold on home soil
Russia also won the bronze medal in Anapa. Maria Prokopeva and Svetlana Popova defeated USA’s Heather Hughes and Kaitlin Sather Nielsen 2-0 (21-16, 21-12).
The two medals took Russia’s overall women’s medal score to two gold, one silver and three bronze. 24-year old Ukolova is responsible for all but one of them.
With Khomyakova she won gold in Klagenfurt (2012) and Anapa, silver in Bangsaen (2012) and bronze in Aland (2012) and also a bronze medal with Prokopeva in 2009 in Phuket.
Cool final after a hot semi
After a shaky 2-1 win in the semifinal against the American team on a blazing hot centre court, Ukolova and Khomyakova felt a lot better in the final after a thunderstorm had lowered temperatures in Anapa.
“This was an easier match for us”, Ukolova said. “It was not so hot anymore and the sand was more solid because of the rain. So it was easier for us to play our game.”
The Russians were able to put more pressure in serving and attacking on the inexperienced German team as they raced through the first set.
In the beginning of the second they started behind but soon built a seven-point lead. On their second match point Khomyakova dinked the ball over the block to score the final point.
“This a very important win for beach volleyball in Russia”, Ukolova said. “Because this is a home tournament a lot of people come to watch us and the final is also broadcasted on TV. This was not only about winning a medal but also to take our sport one step forward in Russia.”
The German girls, who rushed straight to the final in only their first ever FIVB event, were a bit disappointed because they gave away the gold too easily.
“We played a bit too timid, in the semifinal we were more relaxed and could play more aggressive. But anyway, the Russian girls are a good team with a lot of experience and we will be happy with the silver later”, Schneider said.
Prokopeva and Popova storm past USA
Just like the thunderstorm that had just past, Prokopeva and Popova rushed by USA’s Heather Hughes and Kaitlin Sather Nielsen in the bronze medal match. Unlike in the lost semifinal against Germany the Russians played a lot more aggressive in the attack.
“We were very upset after the semifinals, so we decided that we certainly should do our best in this game”, Prokopeva said. “It was really important for us to end the tournament with a win, because we played a home tournament. Thanks a lot for all those people who came today to support us.”
For Prokopeva it was her second bronze after third place in Phuket in 2009 with Ukolova, but for Popova it was her first medal ever. “I think, if we performed like this in the previous match we could have played in the final”, she said. “But I don't have an explanation for what happened with our game. Anyway, now we are happy.”