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Common backgrounds on Copacabana

Laura Longuet (left) and Alexandra Jupiter of France chasing their Olympic dreams on Copacabana Sunday.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 6, 2016 - What do American Olympic silver medallist Jen Kessy and France’s Alexandra Jupiter have in common?

Well, both were All-American volleyball players at the University of Southern California and both will be competing for different countries this week at the $800,000 Rio Grand Slam on Copacabana where the beach volleyball 2016 Olympic Games competition will be staged in five months.

“Yes, I know Alex,” said Kessy, who is attempting to qualify for her second Olympics with Emily Day. “She broke my record (career kills) at USC. It is good to see her out here playing. When she started playing with us on the AVP tour in the mid-2000s, I knew she had the potential to be a good player on the FIVB World Tour.”

Kessy finished her four-season collegiate career (1995-1998) as USC’s all-time career kill leader with 1,799. Jupiter (2008-2011) broke the mark 14 years later with 1,918 kills. April Ross (2000-2003), Kessy’s silver medal partner at the London 2012 Olympic Games and now playing with Kerri Walsh Jennings, ranks sixth on the USC list with 1,576.

While Kessy and Day are competing with two other American pairs for a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games via the FIVB World Tour, Jupiter and Laura Longuet's best shot at qualifying for the Copacabana quadrennial event is through the FIVB's Continental Cup system where the French women have posted seconds at events in France and Russian.

“The best chance for a French women’s team to qualify for the Olympics is at the European Continental Cup finals in Norway or in the Continental World Cup finals in Sochi,” said Jupiter, who will celebrate her 26th birthday this Friday. “Our goal is to get in some good training the next two weeks in Brazil along with being competitive in the Rio and Vitoria qualifiers to earn a spot in the Main Draws for each event.”

The Rio Grand Slam, the first Grand Slam event on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar, opens Monday with country quota matches followed by Tuesday’s men’s and women’s qualifier to determine the final eight entries in both gender’s Main Draw. The “money” rounds begin Wednesday with pool play leading to Friday and Saturday’s elimination matches. The medal matches will be played Sunday.

Jupiter and Longuet will be playing in their eighth FIVB World Tour event together after forming their partnership last May. The French pair failed to advance to the Main Draw in their first three events, but have placed 25th, 17th, fifth and ninth at stops in Russia, China, Mexico and Turkey.

“I knew Laura before my mom and I moved to the United States when I was 14,” said the 6-3 Jupiter, a three-time All-American at USC. “She is a good defender behind my block.  I think we are working better together for each event. Laura has played more internationally, so her experience really helps.”

The 28-year old Longuet and Jupiter are being coached by Mathieu Hamel, an Athens 2004 beach volleyball Olympian. Longuet has been playing in international events since 2004 with her first FIVB World Tour event being in 2007. Jupiter started playing beach volleyball on the American domestic tour as a 15-year old high school student in southern California and stopped playing when she entered USC.

“I enjoyed my early experiences on the beach as a high schooler competing against players twice my age,” said Jupiter. “I stopped playing to concentrate with the indoor game at USC.  I am glad to be back playing and look forward to improving my game with each match.”


At the European Continental Cup event in Stavanger June 22-26, Aline Chamereau and Ophélie Lusson are scheduled to form the French women’s team with Longuet and Jupiter. The dockside event in Stavanger will feature 16 countries for women in the Country vs Country format.

The country that wins the European Continental Cup will earn a berth Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The second- and third-place finishers will have a second opportunity to qualify for the Summer Games via the Intercontinental Final Round to be held July 6-10 in Sochi, Russia. Once a country earns a Rio berth, it will chose the players that will form the two-person team for the Copacabana event.

“That is why we are here to prepare for Stavanger and maybe Sochi,” Jupiter added. “Our goal is to use the upcoming FIVB World Tour events to get ready for the challenges ahead.  The only way to prepare is by training with and playing against the best players in the world.


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