SEOUL, KOREA, May 18, 2008 - Despite a constant rain and wet sand conditions, Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs won the bronze medal at the US$175,000 Seoul Open here Sunday afternoon by defeating three-time SWATCH FIVB World Tour champions Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
With a 21-19, 13-21 and 15-7 victory in 49 minutes over the top-seeded Juliana and Larissa at the Han River Jamsil Citizen Park, the second-seeded Branagh and Youngs share the $14,000 third-place prize while the Brazilians split $10.500 for fourth-place. The win was also the Americans’ first victory over Juliana and Larissa in four SWATCH meetings.
“Obviously, it was not the best day to play Beach Volleyball,” said the 38-year old Youngs, who was claiming her 35th SWATCH FIVB World Tour medal in 88 international starts over the past 12 seasons. “This was a very good win for us and we are pleased with our effort in the third set after being beat in the second set. Juliana and Larissa are a great team and we were fortunate to be the winners on a tough day to play.”
In advancing to a SWATCH podium for the fourth-time in 13 FIVB starts since the end of the 2006 season, Branagh and Youngs also gained 60 more points toward qualification for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The Americans have 3,960 points for their best eight finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour since the start of the Beijing process in May 2007 to rank sixth.
Branagh and Youngs’s fourth SWATCH medal together has been earned in their last five FIVB starts as the Americans opened the 2008 international Beach Volleyball campaign with a fourth-place finish in Australia where Brazilians Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly for the Adelaide bronze medal.
The Seoul Open finale for the $28,000 first-place prize will feature fifth-seeded Chen Xue and Xi Zhang of China against sixth-seeded Shelda and Ana Paula. In Saturday’s semi-finals, Xue and Zhang scored a 21-15 and 21-15 win in 36 minutes over Branagh and Youngs while Shelda and Ana Paula upset compatriots Juliana and Larissa 23-25, 21-19 and 17-15 in 64 minutes.