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USA’s Ross/Walsh victorious in São Paulo
In another classic battle for the ages between veteran warriors, USA’s 10th-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings overcame their intense struggle with Germany’s fifth-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst Sunday to claim the women’s gold medal on the final day at the $440,000 FIVB São Paulo Grand Slam double-gender tournament. The event has marked the return of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour’s to Brazil for the 27th consecutive year.
With the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour returned in South America this week after a six-week hiatus, the ninth 2013 FIVB Grand Slam event was held for the first time in São Paulo and the venue was a purpose-built site located on the expansive grounds of Parque Villa Lobos on the west side of the massive city.
GOLD MEDAL REVIEW
In a dynamic way to launched the newest chapter in their illustrious careers in beach volleyball, USA Olympians Ross/Walsh Jennings never gave up and eventually outlasted Germany’s talented Ludwig/Walkenhorst in three glorious sets,19-21, 31-29 and 15-12 in 65 exciting minutes, the longest women’s match of the six-day tournament. Both new teams on the FIVB World Tour USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings leaves São Paulo with the gold medal, $33,000 in prize money and a 7-0 record in the tournament while Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhurst leave Brazil with the silver medal, $22,000 in prize money and a 6-1 record.. This is the first was the first time these two teams have met although with different teammates all have played each other numerous times.
As the teams battled ferociously for every point, Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst overcame a 8-13 deficit to defeat the Americans in the first set, 21-19. The second set that went overtime was classic textbook as the set was tied 20 times with the last at 28-28 before USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings won it at 31-29.
In the decided third set, USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings exploded for the first two points gradually pulling away to 8-4 and 10-5 leads before Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst rallied to close within two at 11-9, but the Americans hung tough and pulled out the set, match and gold medal championship by a three-point margin, 15-12.
The always gregarious Walsh Jennings commented after the awarding ceremony, “It was amazing. I think the final went just like the whole tournament was for us. We had really tough, really close matches. The Germans came out and played amazing. We were expecting that. I’m so glad we didn’t panic and stayed aggressive.”
Teammate Ross said after her team’s gold medal victory, “Kerri and I approach every tournament in the same way. We’re going to enjoy this until the next tournament, but we’ll be ready to play every point, every game. We respect all of our opponents we play the hardest we can every match.”
The Ross/Walsh Jennings tandem is USA’s newest team. The Olympic duo is playing in just their second FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event after Olympic careers with different teammates. Walsh Jennings has three career Olympic gold medals and Ross won the silver medal last year at the 2012 London Olympics. Ross/Walsh Jennings played together for the first time on the FIVB World Tour in Gstaad, Switerzerland on July 10-14 where they finished ninth. Walsh is returning to regular action after giving birth to her third child as she has taken six months off from competition.
Individually, USA’s Ross was playing in her 84th career FIVB World Tour event, her 37th FIVB final four and now has 11 gold medals. USA’s Walsh Jennings was playing in her 88th career FIVB World Tour event, her 70th FIVB final four and now has earned 45 gold medals.
For Walsh Jennings, she set another record for her illustrious career. Sunday marked the first time in FIVB World Tour history where both a husband and wife were playing in their respective gold medal matches in the same event. Her husband Casey Jennings was pinch-hitting for the injured Sean Rosenthal. Jennings played for the USA with Phil Dalhausser claimed the silver medal as they were defeated in three sets by Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt/Pedro Salgado in the men’s gold medal match.
Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst duo was in their ninth tournament together and this was their third final four appearance and they now have earned two silver medals and one fourth place finish. Ludwig was playing in her 99th career FIVB World Tour event and her 18th FIVB final four with no gold medals and she now has captured nine silver medals. Walkenhorst was playing in her 17th career FIVB World Tour event, her third FIVB final four and she has now has earned two silver medals and one fourth place finish. Together, Germany’s Ludwig/Walkenhorst also won the silver medal together at the last FIVB World Tour stop in Moscow six weeks ago. Ludwig is a two-time German Olympian finishing ninth in 2008 (Beijing) and fifth in 2012 (London) with the now-retired Sara Goller.
BRONZE MEDAL FOR BRAZIL
On Saturday, Brazil’s seventh-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Maria Antonelli provided their home country fans plenty to rejoice about as they slugged it out with Italy’s 21st-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth and won the bronze medal, recording a three-set victory in 54 minutes, 25-23, 13-21 and 15-10.
Playing in their 11th FIVB World Tour event as a team, Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Antonelli earned their first bronze medal as a team and second final four finishing placement. After their bronze medal victory, they left São Paulo with a 6-2 record, an official third-place finish and $16,500 in prize money.
After their loss in the bronze medal match, Italy’s Menegatti/Orsi Toth left São Paulo with a 5-3 record here, an official fourth-place finish and $12,900 in prize money. This was the third FIVB World Tour event as a team and their second fourth place finish.