Paris, France, June 16, 2008 - It is still spring time in the French capital and the SWATCH FIVB World Tour has returned to the Champ de Mars site for the fourth-straight year as women's Country Quota matches for teams from Brazil and Germany launched the US$600,000 Henkel Grand Chelem.
Advancing from the four-match playoff schedule on a side court within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower were the Brazilian Salgado sisters (Carolina and Maria Clara) and Jana Kohler/Ilka Semmler of Germany. Both Beach Volleyball tandems will compete in a 32-team Qualification Tournament Tuesday to determine the final eight spots in the women's Henkel Grand Chelem.
The fifth double-gender event on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar, the men's Henkel Grand Chelem Country Quota matches will be played Tuesday followed by a Wednesday qualifier in the midst of the women's pool play schedule where host France will have three teams competing in the "money" rounds.
The men's Henkel Grand Chelem Main Draw starts Thursday as the semi-finals for both genders will be played Saturday to set the schedule for all four medal matches to be played Sunday. The final two teams in each gender will be competing for a share of the $43,500 first-place prizes.
French pairs in the women's Main Draw are Morgane Faure/Virginie Sarpaux, Deborah Giaoui/Eva Hamzaoui and Celine Gemise Fareau/Mathilde Giordano. Faure and Sarpaux are currently 22nd on the qualifying list for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with 1,500 for their best eight finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour since May 2007.
In avenging a Country Quota setback to Maria Antonelli and Leao Vanilda, the Salgados eliminated a team that placed fifth in last week's initial SWATCH FIVB World Tour in Berlin. Antonelli and Leao, who opened play Monday with a 19-21, 21-16 and 15-13 win in 58 minutes over Shaylyn Bede and Agatha Bednarczuk, won seven of nine matches last week in the German capital with both setbacks to the teams that competed in the Berlin finale - Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh of the United States and Jia Tian/Jie Wang of China.
Kohler and Semmler won two matches Monday, including a 21-16 and 21-9 win over Helke Claasen and Antje Roder, who placed ninth last week in Berlin where two of their three losses were to teams that competed for medals this past Saturday. Kohler and Semmler, who split a pair of qualifying matches in Berlin, opened play Monday with a 13-21, 21-16 and 15-10 win over Geeske Banck and Anja Gunther.
The 25th of 28 qualifying events for women and the 26th of 29 qualifying stops for men for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Henkel Grand Chelem also features additional prize money and points as compared to a SWATCH FIVB World Tour "open" stops. Grand Slam points range from 24 points for 41st-place to 800 points for a gold-medal finish. At an "open" FIVB event, 600 points is awarded for placing first and 18 points for 41st place.
Following the Henkel Grand Chelem, SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops will be held in Norway (Stavanger), Moscow, Switzerland (Gstaad) and Austria (Klagenfurt) prior to the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Stavanger and Moscow stops are part of the Summer Games process with the final qualifying event set for July 15-20 in Marseille, France.
The Gstaad and Klagenfurt Grand Slams will be tune ups for the Summer Games in the Chinese capital where competition will be held August 9-22. The women's Olympic medal matches will be played August 21 and the men's August 22. Both Beijing fields will feature 24 teams with no more than two pairs per country.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images