Jamie Lyn Broder/Kristina Valjas from Canada defied the odds to take gold at the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball Fuzhou Open. The first FIVB tournament of the season also opens the Olympic qualification window for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
|Jamie Lyn Broder (left) and Kristina Valjas from Canada take home Fuzhou Open gold after beating Germany’s Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude in the final|
In its third consecutive year, the FIVB Fuzhou Open is the first double-gender FIVB Open event of the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar with a prize purse of $150,000.
Self-confessed underdogs, Broder/Valjas appeared anything but underdogs on the final day of competition at the FIVB season openers. The Canadians beat US veterans Kerri Walsh/April Ross in their tough semifinal before winning the final against Germany’s Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude 2-0 (21-17, 23-21).
In the bronze medal match, defending Fuzhou Open champions Walsh/Ross left with the medal after dashing local hopes by beating China’s Wang Fan/Yue Yuan 2-1 (13-21, 21-13, 15-11).
Gold is the colour for Broder/Valjas
After an incredible tournament in Fuzhou, Broder/Valjas left the final with an absolute clean sheet, winning all of their seven matches. Entering the last match, a Broder/Valjas - Laboureur/Sude encounter seemed the unlikely final, but unwavering determination brought the two teams together for the gold medal match.
Germany caught Broder/Valjas off guard at the start of the match, but the first set quickly evened out. The pressure of a gold medal began to weigh as a number of service errors from both sides gave away points, but Valjas' presence at the net and Broder's solid digs swung the score in Canada’s favour.
The second set saw equally impressive play from Laboureur/Sude, with a great Sude lob into the far corner at the halfway point. Two huge blocks by Valjas and strong serving took them to match point and the Canadians, clearly enjoying the moment made sure of the gold.
“Gold is the colour - we wouldn’t have had it any other way. What a tournament, we battled through a lot of three sets yesterday and today. A lot of really tough opponents so it feels so good to come away on top,” said Broder.
“I don’t know if I can remember anything that just happened. I’m in shock. We knew that they were going to be strong coming in. They are both solid players with great execution so we had to match that with our execution. We had to come and bring our aggressive attacks because that’s our game and that’s how we win. Our confidence is really up as we had so many people cheering for us, sending these messages, our families, our friends, our coach, everyone is behind us and that’s what I think helped push us through this final game,” said Valjas.
“It’s a great starting-off point, I mean first tournament of the year and we’re in Olympic qualification, it’s awesome to have such a strong start and I think it’s just something we can continue to build on and use to feel confidence for future events,” said Broder.
To reach the final, Broder/Valjas had the unenviable task of beating Walsh/Ross. The match was impossible to predict from start to finish, but the Canadians' spirited performance won the day 2-1 (28-26, 14-21, 15-13).
“It was a battle. The first set bonus points and going as deep as it did, it really took a lot of focus and a lot of fitness as well. It was just keep working for each rally. They are such a strong team that if you give them an easy ball, they are going to come back firing. So we had to make sure we kept executing every touch that we had the opportunity to for the win,” said Broder.
Laboureur/Sude claim silver
Silver for Laboureur/Sude is only their second ever FIVB medal after winning silver at the 2013 Durban Open. Despite the disappointment of losing the final match, the Germans are happy with their set up for the season.
“We are a little bit disappointed because of the last game, but all in all we are very happy to win silver, it’s a great feeling to go home with a medal,” said Laboureur.
“It was a surprise that they played so good, they had a very good start in the season and they beat Kerri Walsh and April Ross so we knew that they had a really good tournament and we tried to do the right things against them but in the end they had a really good level and we couldn’t reach our goals and tactics,” said Sude.
“It’s a great start in the season. The points are very important for Olympic qualification and for us Germans especially, there is a big fight between the teams so it was important for us to win this silver medal,” said Laboureur.
Walsh/Ross add bronze to their collection
The bronze medal match was between Walsh/Ross and local favourites Wang Fan/Yue Yuan producing a very unusual score. China came out hard in the first allowing little chance for Ross to exercise her big hits. Wang Fan/Yue Y. appeared comfortable in their game and the US team found themselves stuck on ten points leaving the first set for China.
Walsh/Ross turned the game around in the second dominating the set as the Chinese team had done in the first. In the tie break Yue. Y did a great job of receiving the US powerful attacks, but Walsh/Ross had found their rhythm and bronze went to the USA 2-1 (13-21, 21-13, 15-11).
“For me it’s a little bitter sweet. I’m so proud that we won that game against a very, very good Chinese team. We trained against them a couple of times in the pre-season so it was a great match and we expected it to be. We have course want to be fighting for the gold and I feel like we let the match slip through our fingers this morning and unfortunately that’s what I’m thinking about now, but big picture, it was a great tournament and I’m so proud that we came back from a butt-kicking in game one and turned it around and won against a very good team,” said Walsh.
“I’m proud of how we stayed steady the whole time, they came out really, really strong, played amazingly in the first game. We started to figure things out at the beginning of the second game, so I’m just proud of us and how we problem solved and how we stayed calm, but like she said, we always want to be on that top spot so I think first tournament of the season we’re on the podium, going in the right direction. I’m really happy that we came to this tournament to get in competition shape,” said Ross.
“We’re going to play in all the Grand Slams, our next event of the FIVB will be Moscow and then we just go. We have the AVP tournament as well at home, but we want to qualify for the Olympics, we want that number one seed, so this is our start and we go from here,” said Walsh.
Wang Fan/Yue Y. best results have come from playing on home sands when they claimed silver at the Shanghai Grand Slam and Xiamen Open in 2014, but a Fuzhou Open medal was just out of reach.
“We came out strong in the first set. But we got stuck in their rhythm in the second set,
"We've found out our weak points at this tournament. We've got to know how to improve and how to play those strong teams when we meet them again.
"We are heading to Shanghai next week, where we will train for three weeks and prepare for the Grand Slams and the world championship,” said Yue Y.
The Fuzhou Open is held at the purpose built venue in the city’s Mianjiang Riverside Park. China has hosted a total of 49 FIVB World Tour events and the second Chinese stop on the 2015 calendar will be the double-gender event FIVB Xiamen Open scheduled for September 22 to 27.
The gold medal teams in each gender at the FIVB Fuzhou Open will each split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500.
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