Lausanne, March 12, 2008 - Led by the top-ranked teams from Brazil, a total of 48 men’s and women’s teams have earned Main Draw berths for the US$350,000 Adelaide Australia Open, the first event on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar.
The first international Beach Volleyball event to be held in Australia since the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane, the Adelaide Australia Open begins March 25 and will feature three different segments of competition. Country quota playoffs will be held the first day followed by the March 25-26 qualification tournaments to determine the final eight spots per gender for the “money rounds”.
The 32-team main Draws will be played March 27-30 with the semi-finals March 29 and the medal matches March 30 as the final two teams per gender will compete for the $28,000 first-place prizes. In addition, the 139 men’s and women’s teams from 37 countries will also be competing for improved positioning for the Beijing 2008 Olympics where a tandem’s top eight finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour will count towards qualifying for this summer’s Games in the Chinese capital.
A total of 73 men’s and 66 women’s teams have entered the Adelaide Australia Open (as of March 11, 2008), including Angola, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Ukraine, the United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela.
Led by the tandems of Andrew Schacht/Joshua Slack and Tamsin Barnett/Natalie Cook, host Australia has initially placed three teams each in the men’s and women’s Main Draws. Teams from Australia will compete in both the country quota playoffs and qualification tournaments to gain additional berths in the “money rounds” of the double-elimination Main Draw competitions.
Schacht and Slack, who captured the bronze medal at the 2007 SWATCH FIVB World Championships in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad in their last international Beach Volleyball appearance, are projected as the seventh-seeded team in the men’s competition. Three teams from Brazil are among the top seven projected seeds along with tandems from Germany, Russia and the United States.
Main Draw seedings are based on a team’s best four finishes among their last five SWATCH FIVB World Tour appearances. Brazilians Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos, the reigning Olympic champions, will be the men’s top-seeded team after posting four gold medal finishes in their last five SWATCH starts in Austria, Norway, Poland and Brazil.
Other Brazilians among the top-seeded teams are Marcio Araujo/Fabio Magalhaes and Harley Marques/Pedro Salgado. Marcio Araujo and Fabio won three SWATCH gold medals in 2007 as did Harley and Salgado. Four teams from the South American country ranked among the top five teams on the 2007 SWATCH standings, including Pedro Cunha and Franco Neto, who will compete for a Main Draw berth in the Adelaide qualifier.
Dmitri Barsouk and Igor Kolodinsky, the winningest Russian Beach Volleyball team in the history of the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, finished behind Emanuel/Ricardo and Marcio Araujo/Fabio on the international ranking list and ahead of Harley/Salgado and Cunha/Franco. Barsouk and Kolodinsky captured five medals in 2007, including second-place finishes at the SWATCH FIVB World Championships and St. Petersburg.
Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, who defeated Barsouk and Kolodinsky for the SWATCH FIVB World Championship gold medal, are projected for a top seven seed along with Jonas Reckermann and Mischa Urbatzka, who posted back-to-back silver medal finishes at the end of last season in Norway and Finland where the Germans dropped title matches to Emanuel/Ricardo and Harley/Salgado, respectively.
Barnett and Cook are projected to be the fifth-seeded team behind top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca of Brazil, China’s Jia Tian/Jie Wang (No. 2) and Chen Xue/Xi Zhang (No. 4) and Nicole Branagh/Elaine Youngs (No. 3) of the United States. Juliana and Larissa have won the past three SWATCH point’s titles and are currently tied with Tian and Wang as the No. 2 team on the qualifying list for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games behind Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
Branagh and Youngs, who have placed, third, third and second in the last three SWATCH stops in 2007 in Russia, Brazil and Thailand, will be the top-ranked women’s team from the United States in the Adelaide Australia Open as Walsh is sidelined as she rehabs her right shoulder following surgery last fall.
“I'm bummed we won't be there,” said Walsh about not competing in Adelaide, “but it'll give me another two weeks of pre-season healing time. Casey (Jennings) will be representing the family!” Jennings is Walsh’s husband, who will be competing with Matt Fuerbringer starting with the men’s country quota playoff matches March 25.
Other Australian teams earning Main Draw berths were Isaac Kapa/Brett Richardson and Sam Boehm/Christopher McHugh in the men’s bracket and Heike Jensen/Becchara Palmer and Summer Lochowicz/Eileen Romanowski. Boehm/McHugh and Lochowicz/Romanowski earned “wild cards” for the Main Draw along with Italians Riccardo Lione/Matteo Varnier (men) and Ester Alcon/Olga Matveeva (women) of Spain.
Lochowicz placed ninth at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with Kerri Pottharst after being eliminated by Cook and Nicole Sanderson in the first elimination round (21-15 and 21-16). Cook, who was competing for her third Olympic Beach Volleyball medal, and Sanderson advanced to the bronze medal match where the Aussies were defeated by Youngs and Holly McPeak 21-18, 15-21 and 15-9. The 71-minute match was the longest in the Athens women’s competition. Cook and Pottharst teamed to win the bronze medal at the Atlanta 1996 Games before finishing atop the podium at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.