Berlin, Germany, June 9, 2008 - Three matches involving five teams from two countries were played here Monday in front of the main train station at the Washingtonplatz to start the competition for the first of six Grand Slam stops on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar.
Advancing from Monday's women's Country Quota matches at the US$600,000 smart Grand Slam were the teams of Maria Antonelli/Vanilda Leao of Brazil and Claudia Lehmann/Julia Sude of Germany as both tandems will now compete Tuesday in the Qualification Tournament where eight pairs will earn spots in Wednesday's opening Main Draw rounds.
Sandwiched between Lehmann and Sude's 21-15 and 21-12 win over compatriots Frederike Fischer and Julia Grossner, the Brazilian matches saw Antonelli and Leao scored elimination wins over Shaylyn Bede and Agatha Bednarczuk (24-22 and 21-17), and Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado (21-18 and 21-14).
The Salgados entered Monday's competition after winning five of six matches last week at a SWATCH FIVB World Tour event in Poland to capture the bronze medal. Antonelli and Leao placed 13th in the Stare Jablonki event after advancing to the Main Draw with a Country Quota win over Agatha and Shaylyn and two more victories in the qualifier.
Lehmann and Sude will now be seeking to advance from the smart Grand Slam qualifier for the second-straight year as the young pair joins two other teams from Germany competing for spots in the "money" rounds, including Jana Kohler/Ilka Semmler and Geeske Banck/Anja Gunther.
Led by Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig, Germany has already placed four teams in the women's Main Draw. Goller and Ludwig are currently the seventh-ranked team on the Beijing 2008 Olympic qualifying list by compiling 3,530 for their best eight finishes since the start of the Summer Games' process in May 2007.
Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau, fifth-place finishers at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, are the No. 2 German team on the Beijing list with only a 10-point lead over Rieke Brink-Abeler and Hella Jurich (3,010 points to 3,000). With only two teams per country allowed in the Olympic competition, Helke Claasen and Antje Roder are the fourth German team on the list with 2,360 qualifying points.
The 12th annual smart Grand Slam, the fifth double gender SWATCH FIVB World Tour stop in 2008, is the 24th of 28 qualifying events for women and the 25th of 29 qualifying stops for men for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Featuring pool play elimination rounds, the smart Grand Slam medal matches will be played Saturday for women and Sunday for men as each gold-medal team shares the $43,500 first-place prizes.
In addition to increased prize money at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops, additional points will be awarded for each placement ranging from eight points for 57th-place to 800 points for a gold medal finish. At an "open" FIVB event, 600 points is awarded for placing first and six points for 57th place.
Following the smart Grand Slam, SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops will be held in Paris, Norway (Stavanger), Moscow and Switzerland (Gstaad) and Austria (Klagenfurt) prior to the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
The Paris, Stavanger and Moscow stops are part of the Summer Games process with the final qualifying event set for July 15-20 in Marseille, France. The Gstaad and Klagenfurt Grand Slams will be tune ups for the Summer Games in the Chinese capital where competition will be held August 9-22.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images