Osaka, Japan, May 21, 2008 - On an excellent day for Beach Volleyball here Wednesday at the historic Nakanoshima Park on an island between the Oojima and Tosabori Rivers in the financial district, eight women's teams earned Main Draw berths for the US$175,000 Keihan/SMFG Japan Open.
With a steady stream of fans watching the Qualification Tournament for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour event throughout Wednesday’s 21-match schedule, pairs from the Brazil, Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines and Sweden advanced to the "money" rounds that start Thursday with 32 teams competing for the $28,000 first-place to be presented after Sunday's Keihan/SMFG Japan Open finale.
Led by top-seeded Kathrine Maaseide and Susanne Glesnes, seven of the top eight-seeded teams qualified for the Main Draw as the Norwegians eliminated Summer Lochowicz and Eileen Romanowski of Australia in a match that featured three players from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Lochowicz placed ninth with Kerri Pottharst in Athens while Maaseide and Glesnes were 17th.
With the women's SWATCH FIVB World Tour returning to Japan for the first time in three seasons, Shaylyn Bede is still in contention to defend her Osaka title despite playing with a new partner this year after winning the 2005 stop on Tannowa Beach crown with Ana Paula Connelly. Shaylyn's older sister Shelda has six Osaka gold medals to her credit and now plays with Ana Paula.
After winning a pair of Country Quota matches Tuesday to net the seventh-seeded spot in the 29-team FIVB qualifier, Shaylyn and Agatha Bednarczuk scored wins over teams from Canada and Italy to advance to their sixth SWATCH Main Draw in 21 international starts together.
Also winning twice Wednesday was 14th-seeded Hiromi Suzuki and Satoko Urata as the host country will have four teams playing in Thursday's Main Draw rounds, including Mika Teru Saiki/Chiaki Kusuhara, Shinako Tanaka/Eiko Koizumi and Takemi Nishibori/Miwa Asao.
Suzuki and Urata, who posted both of their victories over teams from Canada with a qualifying win over third-seeded Sarah Maxwell and Marie-Andree Lessard 21-13, 16-21 and 15-9 in 61 minutes, earned only their fifth SWATCH Main Draw appearance in 20 FIVB events since the end of the 2006 season.
"We are very pleased with our effort today," said the 27-year old Urata, who had placed seventh (2004 with Teru Saiki) and ninth (2005 with Kusuhara) in the last two Osaka events. "The qualifiers are very tough and we have not had a lot of success in winning these matches. It is great to advance to the Main Draw here in Japan as our families will be here this week to watch us."
Other qualifying teams Wednesday for the Keihan/SMFG Japan Open Main Draw were fourth-seeded Lucilla Perrotta/Daniela Gattelli of Italy, fifth-seeded Hana Klapalova/Tereza Petrova of Czech Republic, sixth-seeded Diane Pascua/Heidi Ilustre of Philippines, eighth-seeded Mered dse Vries/Sanne Keizer of the Netherlands and 18th-seeded Karin Lundquist/Angelica Ljungquist of Sweden.
The Brazilian women have won nine of the 12 previous SWATCH FIVB World Tour stops in Osaka at Tannowa Beach. Adriana and Shelda medaled in nine-straight Osaka appearances (1997-2005) with six titles (1998-2002, 2004), a second (2003) and two thirds (1997 and 2005). Ana Paula won the 2003 Tannowa event with Sandra.
The fourth of 19 women's events on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar, the Keihan/SMFG Japan Open will feature 32 Main Draw matches Thursday followed by 22 contests Friday, and four matches each on Saturday and Sunday. The semi-finals will start in the morning Sunday with the medal matches in the afternoon at Nakanoshima Park.
The Keihan/SMFG Japan Open is also the 21st of 28 women's qualifying events for the Beijing 2008 Olympics where a team's best eight finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour since May 2007 are counted towards Summer Games consideration. The process for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games concludes July 20 after a 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour stop in Marseille, France.
Following the Keihan/SMFG Japan Open, the third of 16 double gender events on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour will be staged in Spain for the inaugural Barcelona Open (May 26-June 1). The Barcelona tournaments start six-straight weeks of European double gender events through the Russian Grand Slam in Moscow the second week of July. Other stops will be in Poland, Berlin, Paris and Norway before the first SWATCH FIVB World Tour event in Moscow since 1999.