Paris, France, June 18, 2007 - The first of five “major” stops on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar opens here Monday as the world’s best Beach Volleyball players return to the Champ de Mars for the US$600,000 Henkel Grand Chelem.
The third of 14 double gender events this season on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, competition for both men and women will be played within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower as the 2007 international Beach Volleyball campaign begins the qualifying process for the Beijing 2008 Olympics where 24 teams per gender will be competing for the Summer Games gold medals.
The qualifying process for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games concludes July 20, 2008 at a site to be determined. By July 21, 2008, the FIVB will establish an Olympic Ranking based on the best eight performances of teams in recognized Olympic Qualification tournaments (SWATCH FIVB World Tour events, SWATCH FIVB World Championships and FIVB recognized Continental Championship Finals).
With the five “major” events being held in a seven-week period, the Henkel Grand Chelem will also help finalize the entry list for the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships to be played July 24-29 in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad. The $1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships, the second-most prestigious Beach Volleyball event on the planet behind the Olympics, will feature 48-team Main Draws for both men and women
The Country Quota playoff matches will be played Monday to finalize the field for the Qualification Tournament that “officially” starts the Henkel Grand Chelem Tuesday to determine the final eight spots for the 32-team Main Draws. The “money” rounds begin Wednesday and run through Sunday when the final two teams competing for the $43,500 first-place prize.
A total of 90 men’s and 81 women’s teams from 41 countries have been entered in the Henkel Grand Chelem, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the Ukraine, the United States and Venezuela.
Teams from Brazil are the defending men’s and women’s champions as the South Americans defeated tandems from the United States for the 2006 titles. Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca avenged a 2005 Paris gold medal setback to Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh to defeat the Americans last July for the Champ de Mars crown.
American Jake Gibb has played in both Henkel Grand Chelem men’s finals with different partners. Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes, the reigning SWATCH-FIVB World champions, defeated Gibb and Sean Rosenthal in the 2006 Paris finale. A year earlier, Gibb and Stein Metzger dropped the Henkel Grand Chelem match to Switzerland’s Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel.
Except for Kobel, who captured the Athens 2004 Olympic bronze medal with Heuscher, all of the top podium placers from the first two Henkel Grand Chelem return to this week’s stop. Heuscher is playing this season with Sascha Heyer while Metzger returns with Mike Lambert.
Following the Henkel Grand Chelem, Norway hosts the next SWATCH Grand Slam stop in Stavenger next week. Berlin is the site of the third major event (July 10-15) followed by the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships. The SWATCH Grand Slam series ends the first week in August at Klagenfurt, Austria.