St. Petersburg, Russia, September 1, 2007 - The top spot on the women’s podium at the US$400,000 St. Petersburg Open had the same look as the first two years of the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event on the Neva River with Brazilians Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca capturing their third-straight gold medal at the Peter-And-Paul Fortress.
With their 23-21 and 21-17 victory in 48 minutes over fourth-seeded Jen Boss and April Ross of the United States, Juliana and Larissa also claimed their third-straight SWATCH gold medal and fifth this season while collecting the $32,000 St. Petersburg Open first-place prize.
The title win also avenged an earlier setback in the competition to Americans as Boss and Ross advanced to their second SWATCH-FIVB World tour semi-final by defeating Juliana and Larissa 21-17 and 21-17 in the winner’s bracket quarter-finals Thursday afternoon. For their second medal of the season after winning the Norwegian grand slam, Boss and Ross split $22,000 for second-place.
“We played a lot smarter today,” said the 24-year old Juliana, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the St. Petersburg Open. “Boss and Ross have a great service game and we handled their serves a lot better today. It is also great to win in Russia again. We look forward to returning next year.”
This week’s gold medal effort also pushed Juliana and Larissa to the top spots on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour standings after trailing China’s Jia Tian and Jie Wang through the first 14 events this season. The Brazilians have now amassed 6,920 points for their best 12 FIVB finishes this season while Tian and Wang have compiled 6,740 points for their top dozen placements.
In addition, Juliana and Larissa have now tied the Chinese atop the Olympic qualifying list for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. With a team’s best eight SWATCH finishes being counted during the process that runs through July 20, 2008, the Brazilians and Tian/Wang both have 5,200 points.
“Winning the SWATCH points title is very important for us,” said the 25-year old Larissa, who now has won 19 SWATCH gold medals with Juliana since forming their partnership at the start of the 2004 season. “There are still two more events on the schedule, but at least we have the lead heading home to the next event in Fortaleza later this month.”
Juliana and Larissa have captured the past two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour point’s titles. The St. Petersburg Open was their 50th FIVB event together with the pair competing Saturday in their 31st international Beach Volleyball final. The Brazilians rank third on the all-time FIVB earnings list behind Brazil’s Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede ($2,195,965) and Americans Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh ($1,346,040) with $1,207,350.
In the bronze medal match, third-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs earned the United States’ second podium spot with a 21-14 and 21-14 win in 36 minutes over fifth-seeded Vassiliki Arvaniti and Vasso Karadassiou of Greece. In sharing the $16,000 third-place prize, Branagh and Youngs posted their best SWATCH finish in nine FIVB events together. The Greeks split $12,000 for fourth-place.
The 12th of 13 double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, the St. Petersburg Open concludes Sunday with the men’s medal matches where Russian’s Dmitri “Bars” Barsouk and Igor “Bazooka” Kolodinsky face Harley Marques and Pedro Salgado of Brazil. The St. Petersburg Open is the women’s final international event in Europe with the next stop being at the end September in Fortaleza, Brazil.