FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Fortaleza Open 2016 | 26 avril - 1 mai 2016


Press release

Swiss women seeking an Olympic first

Nadine Zumkehr (white top, No. 1) toasts her Swiss partner Joana Heidrich (facing camera left) and compatriots sabelle Forrer (cener) Anouk Vergé-Dépré after a podium placement together on the FIVB World Tour.

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 25, 2016 - For many years, starting in the mid-1990s, followers of the international Beach Volleyball scene would marvel about the competitiveness of the men’s teams from landlocked Switzerland with the likes of Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel winning a bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and the successes of the Laciga brothers.

But now, it is the Swiss women teams of Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr that are capturing the Beach Volleyball headlines for the European country around the world as both pairs are coming off a successful trip to China the past two weeks with “elite eight” finishes at events in Xiamen and Fuzhou.


With the successes highlighted by gold (Forrer/Vergé-Dépré in Xiamen) and bronze (Heidrich/Zumkehr in Fuzhou) medal finishes, the two Swiss women’s team are in position to secure two spots in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games via the FIVB World Tour as two of the top 15 pairs on the provisional ranking list.

Forrer and Vergé-Dépré are currently No. 8 on the list with 4,640 points for their best 12 finishes on the FIVB World Tour since the start of the Rio qualifying process in April 2015.  One of the top placements for Forrer and Vergé-Dépré was a quarter-final finish last August at the European Championships in Klagenfurt, Austria.

With a fifth in Xiamen and a third in Fuzhou, Heidrich and Zumkehr are No. 13 on the provisional list with 4,120 points.  Heidrich and Zumkehr, who also won a gold medal in Xiamen at a FIVB World Tour stop there last September, are 30 and 150 points ahead of No. 14 Fan Wang/Yuan Yue of China (4,090 points) and No. 15 Ana Galley/Georgina Klug of Argentina (3,930), respectively.


By finishing third and fourth in Fuzhou, it marked the third-time since the start of the women’s competition on the FIVB World Tour in 1992 that two Swiss teams have advanced to the medal rounds in an international event.  Xiamen has been good spot for the Swiss women as Forrer and Vergé-Dépré joined Heidrich and Zumkehr on the podium last September by earning the bronze medal.  Two weeks prior to that, the Swiss had their first World Tour double semifinalists when Forrer/Vergé-Dépré won the silver and Heidrich/Zumkehr the bronze in Sochi, Russia.

If both Swiss pairs qualify for the quadrennial event on Copacabana this August, it will mark the first time the “landlocked” European country will have two women’s teams in same Olympic Games.  The Swiss men accomplished the feat of having two teams in the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.


With Simone Kuhn the constant figure, the Swiss women were represented by one team in the Athens (Nicole Schnyder), Beijing (Lea Schwer) and London (Zumkehr) Summer Games.  Kuhn and Zumkehr, who teamed to win the Swiss women’s first-ever gold medal on the FIVB World Tour at a 2009 stop in Sanya, China, placed ninth in London after being eliminated by eventual silver medal winners Jen Kessy and April Ross of the United States.

As fate would have it, it was Kessy and Ross who were the victims of Kuhn and Zumkehr’s gold medal success in Sanya.  The Swiss pair rallied from a first-set setback to the Kessy and Ross to score a 2-1 (17-21, 22-20, 15-13) title-clinching win in 60 minutes on November 11, 2009.  The 2012 London match was the seventh FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams with Kessy and Ross winning four times over Kuhn and Zumkehr.


After their successful journey to China, both Swiss pairs will skip this week’s FIVB World Tour stop in Brazil at Fortaleza.  The Forrer/Vergé-Dépré and Heidrich/Zumkehr tandems will return to action with four-straight weeks of FIVB qualifying action in Russia (Sochi and Moscow), Turkey (Antalya) and the United States (Cincinnati).

After the Moscow stop at the end of May (24-29), the two teams return home to compete in the 2016 European Championships June 1-5 in the Swiss canton of Biel/Bienne.  Continental championships are part of the FIVB World Tour qualifying formula for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with an European’s team best finish in either the 2015 or 2016 CEV event counting if listed among a pair’s best 12 finishes.


After back-to-back podium placements in China, American Olympians April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings are one event short of meeting the Rio 2016 Olympic Games’ requirement of competing in at least 12 FIVB World Tour and/or continental championships events.  Hindered by Walsh Jennings’ right shoulder injuries, the Americans have missed a majority of the FIVB qualifying stops since April 2015, but still have enough points (5,290) to rank fourth among the non-Brazilian pairs on the Olympic provisional ranking list.

Since Walsh Jennings’ return this March after shoulder surgery last September, the top women’s team in the United States has posted a gold (Rio de Janeiro), silver (Vitoria), bronze (Xiamen) and gold (Fuzhou) medal finishes at events in Brazil and China the past six weeks with a 26-2 overall match mark.

In capturing the gold medal this past week in Fuzhou, Ross and Walsh Jennings struggled in pool play with all three matches in the group resulting in three-set victories.  It marked the first-time since their first season together in 2013 that the pair was extended to three sets in each pool play match at a FIVB World Tour event.

The Americans have a 68-4 pool play record at 24 international events together with two of the setbacks being forfeits when Walsh Jennings’ dislocated her right shoulder in the Moscow Grand Slam last season.  In 70 of those 72 pool play matches, Ross and Walsh Jennings have played only 13 three-setters with all resulting in victories.  Overall, the Americans have a 121-21 match mark together with a 33-8 record when extended to deciding sets with 18 of the victories being after losing the first set.

“We started this tournament really rough, it took us a long time to get into a rhythm and I’m just so proud how we hung together and we battled and we got better every match and this is the best we played I think in two weeks so it was awesome,” said Ross, who captured her 18th FIVB World Tour gold medal and eighth with Walsh Jennings.

“It means we’re improving, that’s the bottom line, that’s all we want to do every single weekend,” said Walsh Jennings, who was topping a FIVB World Tour podium for the 52nd time. “It’s so important for us to play these teams because to win a gold medal in Rio at the Olympics, you have to get there to the gold medal match and all these teams are going to be in our way.  We’re learning, we’re working with them, we’re letting them elevate our play, but it feels really good.”


To qualify for the Olympics, a team must compete together in at least 12 FIVB World Tour events and/or recognized Continental championships from January 2015 through June 13, 2016.  A team’s best 12 finishes will be used to determine a tandem’s ranking.

Five pairs for each gender’s Olympic competition will qualify via Continental Cup action where each FIVB confederation is guaranteed a berth in the Rio 2016 Summer Games.  The last qualifying event will be July 6-10 when Russia hosts the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sochi.  The top two tandems from each gender from the Continental Cup qualifier will earn the last two pairs in the 24-team Olympic competitions.


Brazil has already qualified two teams in each gender’s competition for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  Two pairs from the South American country captured the gold medals at the 2015 FIVB World Championships last July in the Netherlands (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas) to secure Copacabana compartments.  Being the host of the Rio Summer Games, Brazil was also guaranteed two teams in the 24-team men’s and women’s fields (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca).

With all that said, Brazilian pairs cannot qualify another team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games through the FIVB World Tour.  Therefore, the ranking list excludes Brazilians in the ranking order as Talita/Larissa (6,940) and Agatha/Barbara (6,870) rank 1-2 on the women’s provisional list.  Alison/Bruno (7,050 points) and Evandro Pedro (6,130) are the top two teams on the men’s provisional points list for Rio.


The last six FIVB World Tour stops during the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are double gender tournaments highlighted by US$800,000 FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops in Moscow and Hamburg.

• April 26-May 1 - Fortaleza (Brazil) Open
• May 3-8 - Sochi (Russia) Open
• May 10-15 - Antalya (Turkey) Open
• May 17-22 - Cincinnati (United States) Open
• May 24-29 - Moscow (Russia) Grand Slam
• June 7-12 - Hamburg (Germany) Grand Slam

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