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Beach Volleyball - 23. June 2009.

SWATCH FIVB World Championships Features Nila Ann and Ingrid

Nila Ann Håkedal (right) and Ingrid Tørlen of Norway show their energetic and animated side Sunday at the German Masters in Berlin
Nila Ann Håkedal (right) and Ingrid Tørlen of Norway show their energetic and animated side Sunday at the German Masters in Berlin

Berlin, Germany, With Norway hosting the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships starting Thursday in Stavanger, Nila Ann Håkedal and Ingrid Tørlen will be the top-seeded host country team in the competition presented by ConocoPhillips.

“All the Norwegian Beach Volleyball players are excited about hosting the worlds,” said Ingrid, who will turn 30 next month (July 21).  “The atmosphere will be electric especially on the centre court.  I just get goose bumps thinking about playing those matches.”

With US$1-million in prize money being available for 96 men’s and women’s teams from 32 countries in the competition, the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships will cover an 11-day period featuring both pool play and single-elimination play.  A typical SWATCH FIVB World Tour Main Draw event covers only four days with only Grand Slam, World Championship and Olympic events featuring pool and elimination bracket formats.

The 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships, which marks the 11th season that Stavanger has hosted an international Beach Volleyball event, concludes with the women’s medal matches July 4 followed by the men’s podium placement matches July 5.  The winning teams will share the $60,000 first-place prizes.

As one of the most energetic and animated Beach Volleyball teams on the planet, the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships will be the ninth-seeded Nila Ann and Ingrid’s 86th FIVB event with their opening match Thursday against Denmark’s Stine Andreasen and Lotte Vestergaard being their 10th appearance in a Norwegian SWATCH tournament.

“It never gets old playing in front of family and friends,” said Ingrid after the Norwegians placed fourth in an European tour event here Sunday by losing 19-21, 21-13 and 20-18 to Liesbeth Mouha and Liesbet Van Breedam of Belgium in 69 minutes.  “Some feel that there is more pressure to succeed when playing on your home sand, but I feel very calm and relaxed this year.  The best thing is that we will be receiving a lot more support and encouragement from the fans.  That energy really inspires us to play better.”

Sunday’s “final four” finish continues to establish Nila Ann and Ingrid as one of Europe’s top women’s Beach Volleyball teams as the pair has now advanced to 14 semi-finals in 24 continental starts since forming their partnership in 2002 with a 74-51 match mark.  Combined with their SWATCH events, the Norwegian women have won 254 times in 477 matches for 109 tournaments the past seven years.

Forty-two of Nila Ann and Ingrid’s FIVB matches have been played in Norwegian-hosted events.  Seven of Nila Ann and Ingrid’s SWATCH stops have been in Stavanger for women with two more in Kristiansand where the Norwegians placed second last August.  The event was the first international tournament after the Beijing 2008 Olympics where the Nila Ann and Ingrid placed ninth in their second Olympic appearance.

By posting a combined 8-4 record in the Stavanger and Kristiansand events last season, Nila Ann and Ingrid have posted a 21-21 match mark for Norwegian FIVB stops.  In the Stavanger Grand Slam last June, Nila Ann and Ingrid placed fifth after losing a three-set quarter-final match to 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour champions Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly of Brazil.

“We played extremely well in both Norwegian events last season,” Ingrid added, “especially after failing to win a match the year before Stavanger to place 25th.  The real disappointment for any team on the international tour is not playing well before family and friends.  As I said, the pressure is there, but hopefully, we have learned to use the pressure to boost our play.  The key is being prepared and ready to play.  We like the format for the world championships, so we should be ready.”

With the pool play schedule for the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships covering a seven-day period, Nila Ann and Ingrid follow up their match next Thursday with the 40th-seeded Danes with confrontations with 33rd-seeded Cristine "Saka" Santanna and Andrezza "Rtvelo" Martins of Georgia next Sunday and a June 30th meeting against 16th-seeded Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau of Germany.

The meeting against Andreasen and Vestergaard will be historic since no other SWATCH FIVB World Tour event has ever featured only one match on a day.  “We are looking forward to that match,” said Ingrid.  “It will be very special since it is the only match that day with everything focused on those two teams and the opening ceremonies.”

While Nila Ann and Ingrid will be playing Andreasen and Vestergaard for the first-time, the Norwegians are 3-2 against Saka and Rtvelo and 4-10 against Pohl and Rau, including 1-4 in SWATCH events.  One of the wins over the Georgians was in a Beijing elimination match while Nila Ann and Ingrid have defeated Pohl and Rau once in 2004 Stavanger meeting.

“We have a lot of respect for our pool opponents,” said Ingrid, who has never placed higher than 17th with Nila Ann in the SWATCH FIVB World Championships in Rio de Janeiro (2003), Berlin (2005) and Gstaad, Switzerland (2007).  “We don’t know about the Danish girls, but we know the other two teams very well.  Both are very experienced with Olympic credentials.  Due to the format for the world championships, we’ll have time to prepare for each team.”

As the most successful Norwegian women's Beach Volleyball team in history with five “final four” finishes, Nila Ann and Ingrid are also competing in a pool with two of the most experienced teams in the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships.  With the Norwegians the second-most experienced team in the competition behind the Nystrom twins (Emilia and Ericka) of Finland (90 FIVB events), Pohl and Rau are third (82) and Saka and Rtvelo 11th (43).

In a pre-season article, the 30-year old Nila Ann said her experiences with Ingrid “make me feel relaxed.  We know each other and we know each other's moods and strengths and weaknesses.  Every season I play with Ingrid, I like it better than the last, and I feel that we are privileged to still have so much fun together.”

Nila Ann called the 2009 SWATCH FIVB World Championships “special.  Who knows if something like that will ever take place again Norway?  I guess people here at home hope for a Norwegian team to go far in the tournament, and maybe that will put some extra pressure on us, but we will just do our best and try to have fun as usual.”

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