Stavanger, Norway, 2011—Through traditional summer Norwegian rain, sprinkled with occasional Nordic summer sunshine, eight teams from seven countries smilingly advanced from a 32-team qualification tournament Tuesday to the women’s 32-team main draw Wednesday as the $600,000 FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011. The world’s top beach volleyball tandems are back at the majestic Vaagen Harbour venue through Sunday as the double-gender event marks the 13th consecutive visit by the world tour with Stavanger hosting its first men’s event in 1999 and its first women’s event in 2002. It is the 10th straight season for that the women’s tour has played in Stavanger.
Led by two teams from the Netherlands, the six other countries that won two rounds of qualifying matches to advance to the women’s main draw were Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico and Poland.
The 32-team women’s main draw that will start on Wednesday with two days of round-robin pool play, with each team playing three matches to determine the final 24 teams to head to the single-elimination bracket play on Friday with the semifinals and medal matches to be played on Saturday.
The third of seven “major” tournaments on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour schedule, the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011 begins with women’s country quota matches on Monday, single elimination qualification tournament on Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw on Wednesday through Friday. The women’s semifinals and medal matches will be played Saturday with the men’s “final four” matches Sunday as the winning pairs in each gender share the $43,500 first-place prizes. The men’s schedule mirrors the women, starting one day later with country quota matches on Tuesday.
Advancing for the Netherlands were second-seeded qualification team of Madelein Meppelink/Marloes Wesselink and 11th-seeded Roos Van de Hoeven/Jantine Van der Vlist.
The six other teams who will compete for two more days in pool play are Austria’s top-seeded qualification team Barbara Hansel/Sara Montagnolli, Germany’s fourth-seeded Jana Kohler/Julia Sude, Great Britain’s 12th-seeded Zara Dampney/Shauna Mullin, Italy’s seventh-seeded Daniela Gioria/Giulia Momoli, Mexico’s eighth-seeded Bibiana Candelas/Mayra Garcia, and Poland’s 19th-seeded Karolina Sowala/Katarzyna Urban.
To earn their spot in the main draw of the spectacular event, Netherland’s Meppelink/Wesselink eliminated Latvia’s Inese Jursone/Inguna Minusa, 21-18, 22-20 in 31 minutes with their Dutch compatriots Van der Vlist/Vander Hoeven moved forward by defeating.China’s sixth-seeded Ying Huang/Yuan Yue, 21-17, 21-19 in 35 minutes.
Austria’s Hansel/Montagnolli need to come-from-behind to earn their main draw spot in beating Great Britain’s Lucy Bolton/Denise Johns, 15-21, 21-19 and 15-11 in 52 minutes while the other British team in the qualifier, Dampney/Mullin won over Slovak Republic’s Natalia Dubovcova/Dominika Nestarcova.
In an all-German elimination match pitting the two teams who advance from Tuesday’s country quota playoffs, Kohler/Sude fought their way past 13th-seeded compatriots Karla Borger/Britta Buthe, 17-21, 21-13 and 15-11 in another 52-minute qualification final round match.
Italy’s Gioria/Momoli will continue to play in the tournament after their qualification victory over Belgium’s Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha, 25-25, 21-12 in 27 minutes, the quickest match of the second and deciding qualification round.
To advance their names to the women’s main draw pool play on Wednesday, Mexico’s Candelas/Garcia bested China’s 24th-seeded Yuanyuan Ma/Fan Wang, 21-18, 21-9 in a 30-minute match.
Poland’s Sowala/Urban will play at least three more matches after defeating Brazil’s Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima, 21-19, 21-17 in 35 minutes to complete the 32-team women’s main draw field.
“It went really well for us today,” said Netherland’s Van der Hoeven after earning a place in the main draw. “Our last tour event didn’t go very well, but now we are playing as a team again. We are really happy with the win and the points we get for the season and that we are in the main draw. We could use all the points. We have to play the same and be enthusiastic. Then the good results will follow.”
The talented field also includes the entire final four finishers from both genders from last year as well as the last five women’s gold medalists in Stavanger and the last three men’s gold medal winners at the extremely popular event and venue.
In last year’s women’s competition, Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca won gold, with silver going to their Brazilian compatriots Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes, the bronze to USA’s Nicole Branagh/Misty May-Treanor and fourth place to Czech Republic’s Lenka Hajeckova/Hana Klapalova.
Last year’s men’s final four finishers in Stavanger were Germany’s David Klemperer/Eric Koreng (gold), Norway’s Tarjei Skarlund/Martin Spinnangr (silver), USA’s Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (bronze) and Spain’s Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera (fourth place).
Misty May-Treanor has reunited this season with her long-time teammate, Kerri Walsh, and the two-time Olympic champions and three-time FIVB Swatch World Champions will be among the favorites in this week’s tournament. Branagh is playing this season with Angie Akers and they were eliminated in a country-quota playoff match on Monday.
A total of 170 teams from 41 countries (94 men’s teams from 34 countries and 76 women’s teams from 30 countries) are participating in the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011—Angola, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela.
The 2011 calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events, including 12 double-gender tournaments, within all five FIVB confederations plus one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event held August 9-14 at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64-million in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments are combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and all six Grand Slam stops.
After the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011, the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour continues with two more Grand Slam double-gender events: July 4-9 in Gstaad, Switzerland (1 to 1 Energy Grand Slam) and July 11-16 in Moscow (Moscow Grand Slam). The total prize money for each Grand Slam event is $600,000.
The FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011 is the 224th women’s event and 263rd men’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour or the event, please visit www.fivb.org. For information on the FIVB Swatch ConocoPhillips Grand Slam Stavanger 2011, please visit the event website at www.wtstavanger.com.
photos Janos Schmidt