Russian pair silence Kish Island crowd as elimination rounds begin
Kish Island, Iran, February 17, 2016 – Nikita Liamin and Dmitri Barsouk had to ignore a buoyant Iranian crowd and dig deep to produce their best as they fought back from losing the opening set to defeat local favourites Saber Houshmand and Abbas Pourasgari.
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The Russian pair dropped one match point, but eventually saw off the Iranian duo 2-1 (17-21, 21-15, 16-14) despite the cheers of the Iranian crowd who filled the stands to support one of two Iranian teams that made it through to the first knockout round.
The team’s performance was further complicated by a storm that drifted in off the Gulf during the tie-break and which drenched the players and sent spectators running for shelter.
“It was tough,” Liamin said. “They played well and we didn’t start so strong, so we had to stay focused and work hard to beat them.
“It was also hard with the crowd as they made a lot of noise and gave them good support, then at the end when they saved the match-ball we really had to focus hard.”
Top seeds nearing top form
Markus Böckermann and Lars Flüggen lived up to their status as first seeds by wrapping up top spot in Pool A to skip the first elimination round and head straight to the second elimination round that takes place on Thursday.
The German duo were forced to dig deep to finish first and they had to save one match point against Austrians Thomas Kunert and Christoph Dressler before eventually winning 2-1 (21-16, 18-21, 19-17).
Christoph Dressler (AUT) is blocked by Markus Böckermann (GER)
“The final of the group was pretty hard and the Austrians played really well,” Böckermann said. “We expected a tough match, but thought it would be a little easier We won in the end and it was tough.”
Böckermann and Flüggen enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2015 and are aiming to continue their form despite only having had a short break over the European winter. They book-ended the year with golds at the Fuzhou and Qatar Opens and also added silver at the Xiamen and Rio de Janeiro Opens.
Currently they are 12th in the FIVB Olympic Rankings and as such in line for a place at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and aiming to finish on the podium at a Grand Slam.
“We had 10 days off, but I had to write my Master’s thesis, so I didn’t have much of a break, but I tried to enjoy the time and then we started to train again,” Böckermann added.
“It is Lars job to predict how many medals we are going to win. I think we want a medal in a Grand Slam. That is the focus.”
The Kish Island event is the first of the 11 Open tournaments to be staged by the FIVB in 2016, following on from Open events in Puerto Vallarta, Antalya and Doha in October and November last year, which heralded the start of the 2015-16 season. Qatar will host a second Open event in Doha from April 4 to 8.
The 2015-2016 beach volleyball calendar also includes five Grand Slams, three Major Series stops and the second edition of the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals. The beach volleyball tournament at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games which will take place on Copacabana Beach will be the highlight of the 2016 calendar.