Fortaleza, Brazil, September 24, 2007 -
After playing with two-time Olympic silver medal winner Adriana Behar in Finland and Russia with fourth- and fifth-places, respectively, Ana Paula was again looking for a partner for this week’s US$400,000 Banco do Brasil Open starting here Monday with the Brazilian country quota playoff matches.
With Shelda Bede returning to competition with Adriana Behar after missing the two European stops with her long-time partner due to injuries, Ana Paula found another legendary Brazilian to play with this week as two-time Olympic medal winner Sandra Pires accepted the invitation to compete with her Athens 2004 Summer Games partner.
Playing in their 17th SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event together, but their first since September 2004, Ana Paula and Sandra scored a 26-24 and 21-14 win in 44 minutes over Izabel Bezerra and Taiana Lima to advance to Tuesday‘s Qualification Tournament where the final eight berths for the women’s 32-team will be decided on the Praia de Iracema.
“It was fun,” said the 35-year old Ana Paula, who teamed with Sandra to place fifth in the Athens Games before ending their partnership a month later on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro by capturing the gold medal at the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season finale.
“Leila is still a long way from recovering from her left hamstring problems,” Ana Paula added. “I was hoping she would be ready to play this week, but her injury is really serious. I talked with my coach about reuniting with Sandra for this event. We gave her a call and the next thing we were training together. It will be tough since we still have to qualify for the Main Draw, but we like our chances.”
Sandra, who won her 1,000th career Beach Volleyball match Monday, including domestic and international competition, won an Olympic gold medal with Jackie Silva at the Atlanta 1996 Games in an All-Brazilian finale against Monica Rodrigues and Adriana Samuel.
Four years later, Sandra and Adriana Samuel captured the bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games after losing to eventual gold medal winners Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst of Australia in the semi-finals. At the Athens 2004 Summer Games Sandra and Ana Paula were eliminated in three sets by Adriana Behar and Shelda in the quarter-finals.
“I am still playing,” said the 34-year old Sandra, “but more domestically now. Ana Paula and I had some very good results together, and hopefully, we can duplicate our last start together three years ago in Rio. We both have played a lot of matches. As for 1,000 career wins, I am glad to achieve the mark here in Brazil.”
Tuesday’s first qualifying match for Ana Paula and Sandra will be No. 100 together internationally as the pair has now posted 82-17 FIVB match mark. In their previous 16 events together during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Ana Paula and Sandra competed in nine gold medal matches with five titles and $294,500 in earnings to rank 25th on the all-time SWATCH list.
Also winning Brazilian country quota matches Monday were the Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) and Shaylyn Bede/Agatha Bednarczuk. Brazil has already placed four teams in the women’s Main Draw, including Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca, Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro, Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede and Maria Antonelli/Leão Vanilda.
The last of 13 double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, the Banco do Brasil Open will have the men’s country quota playoffs Tuesday followed by the qualifier Wednesday. Play continues through the weekend as teams from 34 countries will be seeking the $32,000 first-place prizes. Following the women’s first- and third-place matches Saturday, the medal matches Sunday will conclude the men’s 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour schedule. The women’s season-ending event will be played Oct. 31-November 5 in Phuket, Thailand.