Beach volleyball returns to its roots
What better place to be this week than on a beach in Rio de Janeiro where the FIVB held its sanctioned men's beach volleyball event some 30 years ago with 20 teams from seven countries competing for $22,000 in prize money at the February 1987 tournament. The first FIVB-sanctioned women’s event would be held five years later at a site after the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.
Training sessions are held ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam
Players from the fan- and family-friendly sport were very evident here Tuesday as teams from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Latvia, Norway, United States and Vanuatu were practicing and training on Copacabana and being watched by the local residents and foreign tourists at a site across from the Hotel Windsor Leme before mid-day showers stopped the sessions briefly.
“Wow, are those really world-class beach volleyball players,” said one tourist from the United States who was taking in the sites of Copacabana before starting a cruise Wednesday. “We can really watch their practices and talk with them? We really don’t get that chance very often with other professional athletes like that in the United States unless you see them at a promotion or wait for them after a game.”
The temporary training courts are just north of the site for next week’s $800,000 Rio Grand Slam where 127 men’s and women’s teams from 36 countries will be competing (March 7-13) for the $60,000 first-place prizes and the 800 Olympic qualifying points that the winning teams will earn.
The scheduled country quota action begins Monday at the site of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games across the street from the Windsor Atlantic Hotel. Qualifying action will be held Tuesday followed by Main Draw play the five next days in the sixth men’s and fourth women’s stop on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour. The 32-team Main Draws feature both pool and elimination bracket play with the medal matches to be contested March 13.
“This is an Olympic test event for us,” said Steve Anderson, who heads the beach volleyball program for Canada, as he walked along Copacabana with player Grant O’Gorman. “Helping our players compete here at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games is our No. 1 goal, so we have our staff here to help prepare for August’s competition. There are a lot of logistical details to work out before the Games.”
Team Canada currently has the one men’s (No. 8) and two women’s (No. 3 and No. 6) teams ranked among the leaders on the provisional ranking list with pairs in each gender just outside the top 15 tandems on the FIVB World Tour Olympic ranking list.
Teams from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Latvia, Norway, United States and Vanuatu have been training in Rio
To qualify for the Olympics, a team must compete together in at least 12 FIVB World Tour events and/or recognized Continental championships from January 2015 through June 13, 2016. A team’s best 12 finishes will be used to determine a tandem’s ranking. A maximum of two teams per country will be allowed to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Host Brazil has already qualified two teams in each gender’s competition due to two pairs winning the 2015 FIVB World Championships last July in the Netherlands (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas). Due to being the site of the Rio Summer Games, Brazil automatically qualified two teams for the 24-team men’s and women’s fields (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca).
Five pairs for each gender’s Olympic competition will qualify via Continental Cup action where each FIVB confederation is guaranteed a berth in the Rio 2016 Summer Games. The last qualifying event will be July 6-10 when Russia hosts the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sochi.