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Latvians “Finally” European Champions

Aleksandrs Samoilovs (left) and Janis Smedins of Latvia "finally" win the European Championships after placing second the past two seasons.

Klagenfurt, Austria, August 2, 2015 - It was the “expected” vs. the “unexpected” here Sunday for the gold medal at 23rd European Championships as two-time FIVB World Tour champion Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia met international rookie Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri of Italy the top spot on the continental podium.

In the end, the experience of Samoilovs and Smedins provided the difference as the Latvia posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) win in 39 minutes over Carambula and Ranghieri to capture their country’s first-ever men’s European championship after the pair had finished second in the last two editions in Klagenfurt and Cagliari, Italy.

The women's team of Inese Jursone and Inguna Minusa were the first Latvian team to win a gold medal at the European Championships.  The podium-topping performance was unexpected as Jursone and Minusa upset defending champions Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig for the gold medal in Sochi, Russia.

It was the Latvians second win over Carambula and Ranghieri in the competition as Samoilovs and Smedins posted a 2-0 (21-17, 21-18) victory over the Italians in 41 minutes Friday in a pool play match.  The win also avenged a setback to Italy in the gold medal match at the 2014 European Championships when Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai defeated the Latvians in three sets.

In addition to topping the Klagenfurt podium, Samoilovs and Smedins garnered 500 points towards qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Although the Olympic rankings are “only provisional” as a team must compete in 12 FIVB World Tour (including continental championships), the Latvians moved into the No. 15 spot on the list ahead of Carambula and Ranghieri by 50 points (2,180-2,130).

The top 15 teams on the FIVB World Tour’s Olympic ranking list qualify a spot for their country in the Rio Summer Games.  As the host country for the 2016 Olympics, Brazil has already secured its two spots in both the men’s and women’s competition in Rio.  The second Brazilian berth in the 2016 Summer Games to be played on Copacabana beach was earned by winning the men’s and women’s world championships last month in The Netherlands.

In the all-Dutch bronze medal match Sunday, Reindeer Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) win in 36 minutes over compatriots Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen.  It was the fourth meeting internationally between the two teams with the series now tied 2-2.

Samoilovs and Smedins, who missed four-straight FIVB World Tour events this season due to a knee injury, posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) win in 38 minutes over Brouwer and Meeuwsen in Sunday’s morning’s second semi-final match.  It was the Latvians second semi-final win over Brouwer and Meeuwsen in the last three weeks as Samoilovs and Smedins defeated the Dutch at the Gstaad Major July 12.

Carambula and Ranghieri posted 2-0 (21-17, 21-19) semi-final win in 40 minutes over Nummerdor and Varenhorst to advance to the finals.  The Italians are now 2-0 this season against Nummerdor and Varenhorst as Carambula and Ranghieri posted a three-set bronze medal win over the Dutch June 7 at the Croatian Major in Porec.

In Saturday’s women’s finals at the European Championships, Ludwig captured her third continental gold medal as she and German partner Kira Walkenhorst posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) win in 37 minutes over Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Birlova of Russia.  Poland's Kinga Kolosinska and Monika Brzostek posted a 2-0 (21-17, 22-20) win in 40 minutes over Natalia Dubovcova and Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic to win the bronze medal.

The European Championships highlighted the first of three weeks of “downtime” for the FIVB World Tour.  The Beach Volleyball schedule features both domestic and continental tournaments the next two weeks with the FIVB World Tour resuming play August 17-23 in the United States for the US$800,000 ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball at the TrueCar Court at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach, Calif.


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