Led by defending tour champions Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca of Brazil, nearly 90 women’s teams from 33 countries have entered this week’s US$190,000 Myslowice Open the first 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour event in Europe and the second of three single-gender women’s events this year.
The men are competing until Sunday as well in Europe. While the women are in Poland, the men’s double-elimination tournament is being held in the Czech Republic — the $190,000 Prague Open.
“We did our best in preparing for the FIVB Myslowice Open and I am very happy that Myslowice has an opportunity of being a world capital city of beach volleyball for the fourth straight year,” commented Myslowice Mayor Lasok during Monday’s media conference at the Quality Hotel in Katowice, Poland. “We have experience in presenting one of these prestigious FIVB events and we are very proud that we can do it once again. We are also excited that this is the first international women’s event of the season in Europe.”
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011, the international beach volleyball circuit returns for the fourth consecutive season to Myslowice and the eighth straight year in Poland. The Myslowice Open, to be played this week at the Summer Sports Resort in the southwestern Polish community, will be the second time and first since 2008 that a women’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event will be held here. It will also be the seventh time in the last six years that the women will be playing in Poland. The second FIVB Swatch World Tour event in Poland for the fourth consecutive year will be the $600,000 Mazuri Orlen Grand Slam to be held from July 25 to 31 in Stare Jablonki. The Stare Jablonki event is the fifth of six double-gender Grand Slam events on the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour schedule.
“The FIVB is honoured to return to Myslowice and we sincerely appreciate all of the hard work and planning that Mayor Lasok and the organizers put into this event,” commented FIVB Technical Supervisor Yu Cao during Monday’s media conference. “Myslowice has experience from the last three years in hosting the FIVB Swatch World Tour and with all of the great teams we have here this week we know that the fans and the international television audience will witness international beach volleyball at its very best. This event is also part of the Olympic Qualification process for the 2012 London Olympics which will add even more intensity to the competition.”
Commenting on behalf of the seven Polish teams entered in the tournament, Poland’s Karolina Sowala, who is teamed with Katarzyna Urban, said, “I want to personally thank the organizers and the Myslowice Mayor for the fact that the Myslowice Open is taking place. We are all very, very happy that we can play in Poland, in front of our home country fans. I can assure you that we will play with great emotion in every match and in every game during the tournament. We have been training and playing very hard in preparation for this tournament and I know we will have some surprises for the teams we play against this week.”
The top women’s team heading into Europe is Brazil’s reigning FIVB Swatch World Tour champions Juliana and Larissa, who are the all-time FIVB career gold medal winners for women with 38. They enter this year’s Myslowice Open leading the 2011 FIVB Swatch World tour after winning the first two events in Brasilia and Sanya and finishing fifth two weeks ago in Shanghai.
In 2010, starting with their title in Brasília, Brazil, Juliana/Larissa combined to win seven gold medals after winning the season title in 2009 with an FIVB-record eight gold medals. Juliana/Larissa have won the FIVB Swatch World Tour season crown five out of the last six years. They also won the gold medal in the last Grand Slam events in Stare Jablonki and the 2007 tour stop in Warsaw to give them three gold medals in Poland. They did not play in Myslowice in 2008 as Juliana was recovering from knee surgery.
Also returning to Myslowice are three of the final four teams from 2010 including gold medal winners Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado of Brazil, silver medalists Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler of Germany and the fourth place team of Sona Novakova/Tereza Tobiasova of the Czech Republic.
Besides Juliana/Larissa, this year’s Myslowice Open field also includes the other medal-winning teams from the last two years in Stare Jablonki. While Juliana/Larissa won the gold medal on both occasions, also playing in Myslowice this year will be China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, silver medalists in 2010, Australia’s Louise Bawden/Becchara Palmer, silver medalists in 2009 and Brazil’s double bronze-medal winners Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh of the United States has entered the contest with Brittany Hochevar. After not playing together since winning the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Walsh started the season with her Olympic gold medal teammate Misty May-Treanor, earning a silver medal in Brazil and coming fourth in Sanya after May-Treanor injured her knee in their semifinal match in Sanya, China. Walsh, who sat out last week, and May-Treanor, who reportedly suffered a minor MCL sprain, are expected to resume playing together again at the Beijing Grand Slam from June 6 to 11.
The gold medal team in the Myslowice will split $30,000, the silver $21,000 and the bronze $15,000. Here are the official entries as of May 11:
photos Janos Schmidt