Lausanne, Switzerland, September 22, 2007 -
Fortaleza will host its first-ever double gender SWATCH stop when competition “officially” begins Tuesday in the US$400,000 event with a women’s Qualification Tournament on the Praia de Iracema followed by the men’s preliminary rounds Wednesday.
Play continues through the weekend as teams from 34 countries will be seeking the $32,000 first-place prize. Following the women’s first- and third-place matches Saturday, the medal matches Sunday will conclude the men’s 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour schedule. The women’s season-ending event will be played Oct. 31-November 5 in Phuket, Thailand.
Brazil has hosted a SWATCH-FIVB World Tour men’s event every season since 1987 with the first-ever tournament being played in Rio de Janeiro. Fortaleza staged five men’s events (1994-1997, and 2002) and three women’s (2000, 2001 and 2004).
The three women’s medal teams from the 2004 Fortaleza event are in this year’s field on the Praia de Iracema, including reigning Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States, and the Brazilian pairs of Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede and Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca.
The Americans defeated both Brazilian teams at the 2004 Fortaleza stop, including a gold medal win over Adriana and Shelda. The two teams would meet five months later in the finals at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games where May-Treanor and Walsh won the title while Adriana and Shelda claimed their second Summer Games’ silver medal.
The 2004 Fortaleza stop was also Juliana and Larissa first-ever SWATCH stop as the young Brazilians’ third-place finish was their first of 39 FIVB medals. This year, Juliana and Larissa will be seeking another podium placement to clinch their third-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour season point’s title.
The women’s competition will also feature the renewal of the Brazilian partnership of two-time Olympic medal winner Sandra Pires with her Athens 2004 partner Ana Paula Connelly. With lingering knee problems for Leila Barros, Ana Paula’s regular partner, Pires will be making her first SWATCH appearance this season to continue her streak of playing in at least one FIVB event for the past 13 seasons.
In the men’s competition, Athens 2004 Olympic champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos will celebrate their fifth-straight SWATCH season point’s title in Fortaleza after clinching the crown at the final European FIVB event on the 2007 calendar two weeks ago in Poland with a gold medal win over Argentine rivals Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde.
Fortaleza is also the hometown for several Brazilian players, including Roberto Lopes and Franco Neto, who won the first two stops (1994 and 1995) in the capital city of the State of Ceará. Both will be playing with different partners this season as Franco is in the Main Draw with Pedro Cunha and Roberto Lopes will be seeking a spot in the “money” rounds with Fabio Guerra.
Franco and Roberto Lopes, who played together in the first five FIVB Fortaleza events, rank behind Emanuel in SWATCH medals in the South American country. In addition to the two State of Ceará gold medals, Franco and Roberto Lopes captured FIVB medals together in 1994 and 1996 in Rio de Janeiro.
Emanuel has 15 medals and 19 “final four” finishes for his 21 previous events in Brazil for $218,033 in winnings. Emanuel has won six SWATCH gold medals in Brazil, including the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, and the 2004 and 2005 titles in Salvador with Ricardo.
The 2007 Fortaleza event will be Franco’s 26th FIVB appearance in Brazil with 10 medals, 11 “final four” finishes and $150,925 in earnings. Roberto Lopes will be playing in his 22nd Brazilian SWATCH stop with nine medals, 10 semi-final berths and $125,675. Both players will celebrate their 41st birthdays in the coming months. Roberto Lopes will turn 41 October 6 followed by Franco’s birthday November 11.
photo Getty Images