Talking Stats: 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour—July 13
This week, the FIVB World Tour will be in the Netherlands for the FIVB The Hague Transavia Grand Slam that carries a FIVB Grand Slam-record purse of US$1,000,000. As the prelude to next year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Champions, this week’s tournament will be anchored in The Hague with some of the pool play matches in Amsterdam and Apeldoorn.
With eight men’s events and nine women’s tournaments now completed, just fresh from the pressure cooker of the 2014 FIVB World Tour are some ‘goodies’ from last week’s FIVB Gstaad Grand Slam:
• First-Time All-German Affair – At the FIVB Gstaad Grand Slam, for the first time in FIVB World Tour history, both teams in the women’s finals were from Germany as Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler defeated Karla Borger/Britta Buthe for the gold medal. This is the sixth time that Germany has advanced two women’s teams to the final four, including two times last season and two times this season, but the first time that both German teams won their semi-final matches. Holtwick/Semmler has been involved in four of those six. Here is a recap of the previous five events along with the finishes:
o Marseille Open 2008 – Stephanie Pohl/Okka Rau (gold), Helke Claasen/Antje Roder (4th)
o Moscow Grand Slam 2009 – Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig (bronze), Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (4th)
o Xiamen Grand Slam 2013 – Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (bronze), Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (4th)
o Durban Open 2013 – Chantal Labourer/Julia Sude (silver), Teresa Mersmann/Isabel Schneider (4th)
o Prague Open 2014 – Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (silver), Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (bronze)
• German Women Continue Success – Spurred on by two teams making the semi-finals in the FIVB Gstaad Grand Slam, Germany continues to be tied with traditional powerhouse Brazil for the most women’s teams reaching the final four in the past two seasons. Both nations have sent 18 teams to the semi-finals since the beginning of 2013 while the United States and China have only sent 13 and nine, respectively. Brazil leads in sending two teams to the final four with ten to Germany’s four. Russia is the only other nation that has achieved “double semi-finalists,” having done it two times in the last two seasons. Counting this season alone, Germany has the most different women’s teams who have made the semi-finals with five: Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (two times), Chantal Labourer/Julia Sude, Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler (two times), Victoria Bieneck/Julia Grossner, and Karla Borger/Britta Buthe (two times). Brazil is next with four, while China, Russia, and Spain have two, and five other countries, including the United States, have just one.
• 14th-Seed Gold Medalists – Gstaad gold medalists Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler became just the third women’s team to win an FIVB World Tour gold medal from the 14th seed. Australia’s Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley won the 2007 FIVB Seoul Open and Brazil’s Vivian Cunha/Larissa Franca won the 2008 Guarujá Open with Vivian substituting for an injured Juliana Felisberta. The team of Holtwick/Semmler is also the lowest seed to win an FIVB event since Russia’s Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgeniya Ukolova won the Klagenfurt Grand Slam in 2012 as the 28th-seeded team.
• Swiss Success in Gstaad – With their upset of top-seeded Americans April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings, Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr finished in 5th place on their home nation’s soil. This was the best finish for a Swiss women’s team in the last eight events, matching back-to-back 5th-place finishes by Tanja Goricanec/Tanja Huberli and Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre in last season’s FIVB Moscow Grand Slam and FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam, respectively.
• United States Men are Back-to-Back-to-Back – Phil Dalhausser/Sean Rosenthal showed the world that they are back as a team, winning their second consecutive FIVB World Tour event and giving the United States men three consecutive gold medals on the 2014 FIVB World Tour. After struggling earlier in the season and getting shut out of the first four events, the United States has placed six men’s teams on the podium in the last four events with Dalhausser/Rosenthal leading the way with a bronze in the FIVB Moscow Grand Slam in addition to their two golds in Stavanger and Gstaad. The team of Ryan Doherty/Nick Lucena has proven to be a big surprise in 2014, winning a silver medal in the FIVB Berlin Grand Slam and a bronze medal in Gstaad. The competition amongst the USA men’s teams has been so intense that Tri Bourne/John Hyden, who won the gold medal at the FIVB Berlin Grand Slam, are the fifth-ranked team from the North American nation, leaving them out of Gstaad, due to the country quota.
• United States takes the lead – The gold medal match in Gstaad was the 59th time that men’s teams from the United States and Brazil had met in the finals of an FIVB World Tour event. Before the match both nations had won 29 of those meetings. With their victory, the United States retakes the lead in head-to-head FIVB World Tour gold medals by a margin of 30-29. The United States started strong in the nation vs. nation series, winning the first three meetings in 1988 and 1989 and nine of the first eleven between 1988 and 1993. Brazil rebounded to win 12 of the next 13 between 1994 and 1998 to take a 15-10 lead. Between 1999 and 2008, Brazil won eight of the 15 head-to-head gold medal matches to stretch their lead to 23-17. During that time span, the United States won the only two head-to-head Olympic golds in Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, and Brazil won the only head-to-head World Championships gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2003. Starting in 2009, the United States won eight consecutive times to take the lead at 25-24 after the season-opening event of 2011, only to see Brazil win three in a row during the 2011 season to move back ahead 27-25. After the USA won the next two meetings to tie it at 27, the teams have alternated winning with Brazil always holding the lead and the USA tying it. The victory in Gstaad gives the United States their first lead in the series since April of 2011.
• Two more qualifiers in the final four – Two more men’s qualifying teams stood atop the podium at this week’s FIVB Gstaad Grand Slam, bringing the total to seven of the 12 teams in the last three FIVB World Tour events who reached the semi-finals after advancing to the main draw via the qualifying tournament. Six of those seven qualifying teams have filled the nine slots on the podium with all three medals in Berlin, the bronze (and 4th place) in Stavanger, and the silver and bronze medals in Gstaad.
• Brazil with silver and no gold – In the Gstaad finals, Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt had a chance to do what no other men’s team from Brazil has been able to do since the FIVB Xiamen Grand Slam in October of last season – win a gold medal. Brazil has now gone eight straight FIVB World Tour events without a men’s gold medal. This is the country’s third gold medal match during the streak, the second for Alison/Bruno, and all have come up silver. Brazil, which has 171 men’s FIVB World Tour gold medals – almost three times as many as second-place USA with 61, has two longer gold-less streaks of 14 straight from May, 2010 through May, 2011 and ten straight from August, 1990 through February, 1992. During those two streaks, the South American country won eleven silver medals combined without striking gold. Brazil responded from their longest losing string by winning six straight gold medals. Only time will tell if the Brazilian men can repeat that feat.