Paris, France, June 19, 2008 - With a pair of seed-breakthrough wins here Thursday at the US$600,000 Henkel Grand Chelem, 31st-seeded Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs of Latvia are in position with one more win this week to better their ranking for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
After qualifying Wednesday with a pair of wins over teams from Canada and Japan, Plavins and Samoilovs upset Beach Volleyball pairs from Germany and Estonia on the sand courts at the Champs de Mars within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower Thursday to gain the lead in Pool K in the fourth annual Henkel Grand Chelem.
Entering this week's men's international event, Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs had compiled 1,860 qualifying points for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games for their best-eight finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour since May 2007.
Needing to place ninth or higher in the Henkel Grand Chelem to improve their Beijing total, Plavins and Samoilovs will have two chances Friday as the Latvians are guaranteed a spot in the 24-team single-elimination field where pool winners will earn a "bye" along with 320 points for finish among the top 16 teams.
A win over 15th-seeded Stein Metzger and Mark Williams will solidify the "bye" for the Latvians. If Plavins and Samoilovs dropped their pool-play match to the Americans and second-seeded Julius Brink and Christoph Dieckmann defeat 18th-seeded Kristjan Kais and Rivo Vesik of Estonia, the pool leadership will be determined on set and point ratios due to a three-way tie.
The 2005 SWATCH FIVB World champions for players under the age of 21, Plavins and Samoilovs opened play Thursday with a 22-20, 12-21 and 18-16 in 65 minutes over Brink and Dieckmann before posting a 21-18, 13-21 and 15-11 victory in 59 minutes over Kais and Vesik.
Both the Germans (sixth, 4,260 points) and the Estonians (14th, 3,090) are in position to qualify for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. While Plavins and Samoilovs were playing Kais and Vesik for the first time on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, Brink and Dieckmann had defeated the Latvians in two previous meetings with a pool win last year on the Champs de Mars.
"We like our position for tomorrow," said the 23-year old Samoilovs, "but we have to take advantage of this opportunity to really help our Olympic chances by winning our first match Friday against the Americans. Both American players are very experienced, but we defeat two very experienced teams today. Both matches today were very tough, so we are tired right now."
Defending Henkel Grand Chelem champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos of Brazil split a pair of matches Thursday after being upset 21-14 and 21-19 in 41 minutes by 17th-seeded Martin Laciga and Jan Schnider of Swtizerland. All four teams in Pool J have 1-1 match marks as the Emanuel and Ricardo play 16th-seeded Mischa Urbatzka/Jonas Reckermann of Germany while 32nd-seeded Serguei Prokopiev/Yaroslav Koshkarev Russia face the Swiss.
The Henkel Grand Chelem also features women's play where 12 matches will be played Friday to determine the "final four" teams. The semi-finals for both genders being played Saturday with the medal matches Sunday. Each gold medal team will shares the $43,500 first-place prizes for the second of six SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam events in 2008.