Klagenfurt, Austria,The third time was the “charm” for Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca as the Brazilians captured their first gold medal in three attempts here Saturday afternoon to win the women’s title at the US$600,000 A1 Beach Volleyball Grand Slam Presented by Volksbank.
The silver medal winners at the 2006 and 2007 A1 Beach Volleyball Grand Slam where the Brazilians lost the titles to teams that captured the two top spots on the Beijing 2008 Olympic podium, the third-seeded Juliana and Larissa scored a 21-12 and 21-15 win in 39 minutes over fourth-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs of the United States.
In the 2006 finale on the Metnitzstrand centre court at Lake Wörthersee, Juliana and Larissa lost a 20-22, 21-16 and 15-11 title match in 56 minutes to Jia Tian and Jie Wang of China, the silver medal winners in Beijing. The next year, the Brazilians fell 21-16 and 23-21 in a 46-minute gold medal match to two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States.
With the victory, Juliana and Larissa shared the $43,500 first-place prize in capturing their second SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam gold medal this season after claiming the Russian title two weeks ago in Moscow. For the 2009 season Juliana and Larissa have won four SWATCH titles to increase their career FIVB total to 25 gold medals since forming their partnership in 2004.
“We are glad to finally win in Klagenfurt,” said Juliana, who celebrated her 26th birthday last week in France where she and Larissa placed 17th in the Marseille Grand Slam. “We have been close twice, but lost to two very good teams from China and the United States. We defeated another good team today, so we are very satisfied. The last five weeks have been very tough physically and mentally with the world championships and four Grand Slams.”
After winning “open” events in Brazil and Japan to start the season, Juliana and Larissa placed second in the world championships at the start of July in Stavanger by losing to Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross in the finals. The next week, Juliana and Larissa placed second in the Swiss Grand Slam followed by the Russian success as both finals were against Brazilian rivals.
Saturday’s finale was the 77th-time in the history of the women’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour that the women’s gold medal matches featured teams from Brazil and United States. Brazilians have won three of the four gold medal meetings this season, but Americans pairs still hold a 44-33 edge.
Juliana and Larissa are 6-9 against Americans in gold medal matches with an overall mark of 25-16. Branagh and Youngs, who are now 1-1 in title matches against Brazilians and 1-3 overall, shared $29,500 for second-place. The A1 Beach Volleyball Grand Slam was also Youngs’ 100th SWATCH event as she was playing in her 22nd FIVB finale.
After the Brazilians advanced to the A1 Beach Volleyball Grand Slam gold medal match with a 21-18 and 21-19 win in 48 minutes over ninth-seeded Barbara Hansel and Sara Montagnolli of Austria in the first meeting between the two teams, Branagh and Youngs upset second-seeded Kessy and Ross 22-20 and 21-17 in 51 minutes. The victory evened the FIVB series between the two teams at 3-3, but Saturday’s match was the 28th meeting between the two American pairs with Branagh and Youngs now leading 19-9.
In the bronze medal match, Kessy and Ross avenged their setback to the Austrians in Moscow two weeks ago to score a 21-19 and 21-17 victory in 45 minutes over Hansel and Montagnolli, who were playing in their first-ever SWATCH FIVB World Tour “final four”. Kessy and Ross shared $23,000 for third-place while Hansel and Montagnolli split $18,400 for fourth-place. Montagnolli was also named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the A1 Beach Volleyball Grand Slam.
The men’s A1 Beach Volleyball Grand Slam quarter-finals will be Saturday after the women’s podium placement matches. The men’s semi-finals and medal matches will be contested Sunday. The SWATCH FIVB World Tour continues in Europe next week with the sixth annual Mazury Open in Stare Jablonki, Poland. The play starts Monday and Tuesday with Country Quota and qualifying matches, respectively, with the first Main Draw matches Wednesday as the Polish resort hosts women’s competition for the second-straight season.
photo Getty Images