Paris, France, June 24, 2007 - When speaking of “charms” the third-time was a gold medal winner for reigning Olympic champions Emanuel and Ricardo as the world’s No. 1-ranked Beach Volleyball team defeated Brazilian rivals Pedro Cunha and Franco Neto for the US$600,000 Henkel Grand Chelem title here Sunday afternoon before an over-flowing crowd of 7,000 on the Champ de Mars center court.
In securing the $43,500 first-place prize with a 19-21, 21-17 and 15-12 win in 71 minutes over the third-seeded Cunha and Franco, the second-seeded Emanuel and Ricardo captured the first of five “major” stops on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar.
In addition, the Brazilians were winning a gold medal near the Eiffel Tower for the first-time in three attempts after finishing ninth and third in their first two Henkel Grand Chelems the past two years. Sunday’s title was also FIVB gold medal No. 26 for the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World champions along with Emanuel’s 62nd and Ricardo’s 42nd on the international circuit.
“It is great to play in front of one of the world’s most famous sites,” said the 34-year old Emanuel, who was winning his 108 Beach Volleyball title since 1994. “It is even more special to win in Paris before such a great site. Obviously, the Olympic and world championships are the best, but this one ranks among the best ever on this tour.”
Due to a left heel injury for Ricardo, the Brazilians started the 2007 SWATCH season slowly by placing fifth, ninth, second and fifth in the first four FIVB starts before ending an six-event title drought by defeated Cunha and Franco in last week in Portugal for the Espinho gold medal.
Both teams suffered one defeat each earlier in the week as the Henkel Grand Chelem started with pool play with the top three tandems in each pool advancing to the 24-team single-elimination bracket. While Emanuel and Ricardo had to play only three matches to reach their 36th FIVB finale, Cunha and Franco had to win four contests to reach their sixth SWATCH gold medal match.
Franco, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the Henkel Grand Chelem, and Cunha shared $29,500 for their silver medal finish. The 40-year old Franco was also trying to become the oldest player to win a SWATCH title as he was denied for fifth-time in attempting to break the record set by American Mike Dodd (39 years, two months, seven days) in 1996.
In the bronze medal match, 14th-seeded Mike Lambert and Stein Metzger of the United States posted a 21-12 and 21-17 win over sixth-seeded Julius Brink and Christoph Dieckmann of Germany to split $23,000 for third-place. The Germans, the 2006 European champions, split $18,400 for fourth-place.
The Henkel Grand Chelem, which staged the women’s finals after the men’s gold medal match Sunday, is also part of the qualifying process for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games that runs through July 20, 2008. The next “major” event on the SWATCH schedule starts Monday in Norway for the $600,000 ConocoPhillips Grand Slam in Stavanger.