Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt captures men’s gold medal at FIVB Klagenfurt A1 Grand Slam
With Klagenfurt stadium center court overflowing from two hours before the morning semifinal matches to past the conclusion of the artistically composed closing ceremonies, the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour stop was held in Klagenfurt in a spectacular purpose-built venue at picturesque Klagenfurt am Wörthersee.
FIVB PURSE, TOURNEY TOTALS
The FIVB Klagenfurt A1 Grand Slam was the 308th FIVB men’s tournament since its first event in 1987 and the 272 FIVB women’s tournament since FIVB began women’s competitions in 1992. Gold medal winning teams in each gender in Klagenfurt will split $57,000, silver will receive $43,000, bronze medalists get $32,000 and the fourth place finishers will earn $24,000 of the $800,000 total purse.
GOLD MEDAL REVIEW
As the overflow center court crowd enjoyed the weeklong festival of beach volleyball and the final played in bright sunshine, Brazil’s third-seeded Cerutti/Schmidt the third time was the charm as they Brazilian duo won the Klagenfurt gold medal match over Italy’s seventh-seeded Nicolai/Lupo, 21-14, 21-17 in only 33 minutes. With the victory, Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt, a new team this season, claimed their first victory over Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo after losing in three sets twice earlier this year in Moscow and Fuzhou, China.
Sunday’s rematch was much faster to determine the outcome as Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt played near perfect with forceful blocks and ferocious kills by Alison and amazing digs by Schmidt to subdue the talented Italian duo.
Like he did in his team’s semifinal win earlier Sunday, Brazil’s Alison controlled the net helping give his team large early leads of 6-2 and then 10-5 with a 13-8 score at the technical time out. From that point they continued to play flawlessly, benefitting also from a number of Italian hitting errors with the set ending on a Lupo kill attempt that went wide.
Hoping for a comeback in the second set that never materialized, Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo tied the score one at 6-6 but Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt continued their combined attack and defend performance to pull out ahead to 12-9 at the technical time out. After the time out, Brazil continued to pour it on with serving, digging, passing, setting, blocking that thrilled the center court crowd like they were watching virtuosos performing a melodic aria. They built leads of 18-13 and 20-14 before a last gasp by Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo saved three set/match points but then Schmidt ended the concerto with a bombastic blast that bounced off of the diving Lupo who was attempting to save it.
After the awarding ceremony, Brazil’s Bruno commented, “This gold medal match was one that took everything we have in us. The Italians played really well and we have lost to them twice this year already. The fans really made the difference for us today. The way they cheer and celebrate every point – they bring out the beast that Alison carries within. He was an absolute monster at the net in both our semifinal win over Latvia and against the Italians.”
Alison, after spraying the huge champagne bottle each team received, said, “I feel very emotional. I love playing in front of the Austrian fans and getting a gold medal here is a very special moment. Even though we lost one match in pool play, Bruno and I played very well here. I think the incredible fans in Klagenfurt actually inspired me to jump higher and dig deeper to make plays to help us against the Italians who made some mistakes or it could have been a lot closer. It’s great to win our first FIVB gold medal as a team.”
Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt is another new pro beach volleyball duo with veteran players. As a team this was just their ninth career FIVB World Tour event and fifth final four earning their first gold medal to go along with two silver medals, one bronze and one fourth place finish. Individually, for Alison, silver medalist at the 2012 London Olympic Games with Emanuel Rego, this was 83rd FIVB World Tour event, his 41st final four finish and he now has 12 career FIVB World Tour gold medals, 13 silver medals, 11 bronze medals and five fourth place finishes. Schmidt was playing his 85th tournament and 18th final four and was his third career FIVB World Tour gold medal to go with six silver medals, four bronze medals and five fourth place finishes. The Brazilian duo had a 7-1 match record during their week in Klagenfurt.
Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo, who finished fifth in the 2012 London Olympic Games, were playing in their 37th FIVB World Tour event as a team and this was their 11th final four appearance with two gold medals (both this season), three silver medals, four bronze medals and two fourth-place finishes. Individually, for Nicolai was in his 65th career FIVB World Tour event and Lupo was playing in his 45th FIVB World Tour event.
Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo had a 6-2 record in Klagenfurt as they opened the season with two consecutive gold medals in China (Fuzhou and Shanghai) and a fourth place in Moscow. This was their first return to the podium since the Moscow event.
BRONZE MEDAL REVIEW
Australia’s 21st-seeded Christopher McHugh/Isaac Kapa hadn’t beaten their opponents in five attempts, but the sixth time was the charm Sunday as the upset Latvia’s fourth-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins in straight sets, 24-22 and 21-17in 42 minutes.
In the series history between the two teams on the FIVB World Tour, against Australia’s McHugh/Kapa improved the record against Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins to 1-5.
In Sunday’s bronze medal match, the first set was tied 19 times as the two teams scored repeatedly on side outs. With the last tie at 22-22, Australia recorded the last two points on a poke by McHugh and the set ended on a hitting error by Samoilovs when he kill attempt went just long.
The second set was tied most of the way again like the first, with the last at 14-14 as Australia scored three straight points and a kill by Kapa and two straight kills by McHugh, one off of Samoilovs and then the closer off of a diving J. Smedins to end the set and close the match out.
Obviously excited with the victory and their first FIVB medal, Australia’s McHugh said, “The Latvians are an extremely high profile team and they play a tough brand of beach volleyball – we really enjoy the challenge of taking them on. Klagenfurt for sure is the best event in the world, the crowd interaction is amazing. To reach our first final four here was a very enjoyable experience.”
His teammate Kapa added, “Klagenfurt has been my favorite event for a long time, now that we managed to get a great result here it’s starting to feel a little bit like home. Normally we are sitting in the grand stand on Sunday. Today we got to play in front of this amazing crowd. Today we have reached one of our long term goals and this week has been a dream come true for both of us. To medal, to beat three of the top four-seeded teams who are all the best in our sport and to do it all in Klagenfurt, you can’t ask for anything more.”
Australia’s McHugh/Kapa duo was playing in their 15th FIVB World Tour event as a team and this was their first final four placement and first medal. Individually, this was McHugh’s 66th FIVB World Tour event where his previous career best was fifth place while Kapa was playing in his 60th FIVB international event with a previous best finish of fifth place. They had a 5-3 match record in Klagenfurt, including elimination round wins over the top two-seeded men’s teams in the tournament (USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Sean Rosenthal and Poland’s Mariusz Prudel/Grzegorz Fijalek) as well as the fourth-seeded Latvians in the bronze medal match.
Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins were playing in their their 23rd career FIVB World Tour event and this was their 10th final four appearance and they have four gold medals, three silver, one bronze and two fourth place finishes as a team. Individually, this was the 117th career FIVB World Tour event for Samoilovs, his 11th final four placement and he now has four career FIVB gold medals, four silver medals, one bronze and two fourth place finishes. J. Smedins, bronze medalist at the 2012 London Olympic Games, was playing in his 85th career FIVB World Tour event and 14th final four with five career gold medals, four silver medals, two bronze medals and three fourth place finishes. They had a 5-2 match record in Klagenfurt.
Starting Sunday’s sunshine-filled final day of action, another overflow Klagenfurt stadium center court crowd cheered, chanted and sang continuously the first semifinal saw Italy’s seventh-seeded Nicolai/Lupo end the upset string by defeating Australia’s 21st-seeded McHugh/Kapa in two quick sets, 21-13, 21-15 in 33 minutes. Italy now leads the series between the two teams, 3-0.
In the second semifinal, Brazil’s third-seeded Alison/Schmidt truly overpowered Latvia’s fourth-seeded Samoilovs/J. Smedins in twin sets to give the Latvians their first loss in Klagenfurt, 21-14, 21-17 in 35 minutes. Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt tandem now leads the series with Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins, 2-1.
In the first semifinal, Italy dominated from the start of the first set with Nicolai’s numerous blocks and Lupo’s digs and serves keeping the Australians off-balance.
Making offensive and defensive adjustments, the second set started much closer with Australia’s McHugh/Kapa continuing to battle with fewer mistakes and trailed by just one point at the technical time out, 10-11. Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo regrouped at that point, scoring four straight points during a 6-1 run after the break to lead 17-11. Australia’s McHugh/Kapa made a comeback attempt with a 4-1 run of their own to close to 15-18 but Italy’s Nicolai scored again on another brilliant block and the Italians closed out the set and match to advance to the gold medal match.
In the second semifinal, Brazil’s Alison/Schmidt took charge early in both sets and would let Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins get into any rhythm on the court. Brazil’s Alison dominated the net with massive monster kill after kill that couldn’t be returned in both sets and blocks delivered with the velocity of a hammer striking down. Alison ended the first lopsided set with a kill of J. Smedins.
The second set was closer as Latvia tried to get back into the match and it was tied five times up to 8-8 then another crowd-pleasing Alison block gave Brazil just enough cushion that they were able to stay at least one point ahead until running off three straight to make the score 20-16 when Schmidt ended the set and match with a kill inside the back sideline for the Brazilian victory.
Arguably the most popular event of many ‘favorite’ events on the FIVB World Tour, the Klagenfurt venue features a purpose-built 8,000-seat stadium center court and massive two-story VIP hospitality area and private dock along with another private players dock alongside the shores of spectacularly beautiful Lake Woerth in western Klagenfurt, which is located in Southern Austria.
HOME IN KLAGENFURT
This year was an unprecedented 17th time in the last 18 years that the Klagenfurt am Wörthersee site has hosted the international circuit. While the men’s world tour has been in Klagenfurt 16 straight times from 1997 through 2012 before this year for this magical summer festival, the women’s world tour was in Klagenfurt for 12 consecutive years from 2001 through 2012 prior to this year.
After Klagenfurt, the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour takes two weeks off before resuming in Poland with another very popular event, the $800,000 FIVB Stare Jablonki Grand Slam, Aug. 19-24 in the Mazury region of the country. It will be the ninth of 10 FIVB Grand Slams in 2014.