CEV Continental Cup gains momentum with another four events this weekend
Winners and runners-up will proceed directly to the third round scheduled next year. Teams missing out on spots one and two will re-start their campaigns for a spot in the beach volleyball tournament of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with the second round events taking place later this summer.
The 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup has already written history this season, with a record-breaking number of 44 participating countries, including 10 who are making their debut this year after missing the inaugural edition leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London. Five of these rookies – Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ireland, and San Marino – will be in action this weekend as the Continental Cup stops in Baku (AZE), Kardzhali (BUL), Bournemouth (ENG), and Schinias (GRE).
Switzerland’s men and Sweden’s women are the clear-cut favourites for the top positions in pool D.
Matches will be hosted in one of England’s most popular seaside resorts, the city of Bournemouth. The hopes of the host country will heavily rely on Zara Dampney, who alongside Shauna Mullin represented Team GB at the London Olympics. Mullin competed for Scotland last week in Portoroz so this time Dampney will team up with another 2012 Olympian, indoor player Savanah Leaf.
Sweden will line up two experienced duos, Nina Grawender/Karin Lundqvist and Camilla Nilsson/Tadva Yoken, who have some experience also from the World Tour.
In the men’s competition, though they won’t travel to England with their best duos, the Swiss are certainly the “hottest” contenders for first place in the group.
Also this weekend, the city of Baku, a well-known volleyball “Mecca”, will host a first international beach volleyball tournament at the “Heyat” Rest Area. The relatively unknown teams from the host country will test pairs from Turkey, Israel, and Ukraine. The line-up includes, amongst others, Sergiy Popov, a former multiple medalist from various age-group World and European Championships.
Teams from Greece, Belarus, Romania, San Marino and Malta will be in action in Schinias, a suburb of Athens which rose to international fame when it hosted events of the 2004 Olympics. It will also be the venue for pool E. The tournament will mark the comeback of 2012 European silver medalist Maria Tsiartsiani, who is returning from injury and will be playing again with former partner and double European champion Vassiliki Arvaniti.
In the men’s competition, home heroes Nikos Zoupanis and Georgios Kotsilianos will get to test the skills of two up-and-coming duos from Belarus, Aliaksandr Dziadkou/Aliaksandr Kavalenka and Anton Dedkov/Anton Sinhayeuski. San Marino’s men will celebrate their Continental Cup premiere in Greece hoping to get some valuable experience ahead of the Games of the Small States of Europe coming up next year in Iceland and in 2017 in their home country.
The last tournament scheduled this weekend will take place in Bulgaria, in the city of Kardzhali. The home teams will be playing pairs from Albania, Finland and neighbouring Serbia. The major attraction of the tournament will be the Nyström twins, Erika (pictured) and Emilia. They have already picked up medals twice on the European circuit this season, winning bronze at the CEV Satellite in Antalya and also at the Baden Masters in Austria. Finland’s second female team will also be one to watch out for since former volleyball star Riikka Lehtonen has now switched to the sand in an attempt to make the 2016 Olympics together with her young partner Taru Lahti, who finished fourth at the FIVB U23 World Championship in Myslowice, Poland.