Lausanne, Switzerland, November 26, 2008 - With Beijing 2008 Olympic podium placers Xi Zhang of China and Misty May-Treanor of the United States leading the way, the top players on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour were revealed here Wednesday after compiling the voting by SWATCH representatives, players, coaches, referees and officials from the international Beach Volleyball circuit.
For the 23-year-old Zhang and the 30-year-old May-Treanor, SWATCH honored the Olympic bronze and gold medal winners, respectively, as the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour top performers as each competitor captured three "most outstanding player of the event" awards this season.
The SWATCH FIVB World Tour honor was May-Treanor’s second as she was also named the top player in 2005 with her Olympic partner Kerri Walsh winning the award in 2007. Brazilian Larissa Franca was recognized as the top performer in 2006.
May-Treanor, Walsh and Larissa also captured 2008 individual awards along with Brazilians Shelda Bede, Ana Paula Connelly and Maria Clara Salgado, Bibiana Candelas of Mexico and American Nicole Branagh, who became the first player in SWATCH FIVB World Tour history to win medals with three different partners during one international Beach Volleyball season.
In addition to winning her fourth-straight most inspirational player award, the 35-year-old Shelda partnered with Ana Paula to win the SWATCH team-of-the-year honors as the Brazilians won three FIVB gold medals this season in Poland, Switzerland and Australia enroute to the point’s championship.
Previously, Shelda partnering with Adriana Behar were honored as the tour’s top team for six seasons (1997-2001, 2004), with the 36-year-old Ana Paula and Sandra Pires the top tandem in 2002. Shelda is first on the individual all-time women’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour earnings list with $1,268,683 for a record 138 events. For 120 FIVB starts together, Shelda and Adriana compiled a record $2,207,965 in winnings with 31 gold medals, 85 podium placements and 96 “final four” finishes.
A two-time Beach Volleyball Olympian, Ana Paula has won 11 SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medals with five different partners. With $249,800 in winnings this season with Shelda, Ana Paula’s share propelled her into a top 10 ranking on the career FIVB’s individual earnings lists ($615,228).
The 25-year-old Maria Clara was honored as the SWATCH top server for the 2008 season after setting a tour record with an 86.0 km/h serve at June’s stop in Poland where she and her sister captured the Stare Jablonki medal. Ana Paula (83.0), the winner of the service award the previous five years, placed third this season behind American April Ross (85.7).
In addition to winning two SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medals this season 19-year-old Chen Xue, Zhang was named the event most outstanding player for international stops this season in Korea, Russia and two weeks ago in China where she placed second with 16-year-old Ying Huang in Sanya after losing the finale to Americans Jen Boss and Ross.Competing full-time on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour, Zhang currently ranks 22nd for individual all-time winnings ($321,950) as she and Xue were the youngest team to ever win international Beach Volleyball titles with a pair of gold medal finishes in 2006. Zhang and Xue rank seventh on the team’s earnings list with $568,600 for 39 events with 17 medals and 20 “final four” finishes together.
The most valuable player at the Beijing Summer Games where she and Walsh netted their second Olympic gold medal, May-Treanor was named the SWATCH most outstanding player at 2008 FIVB stops in Berlin, Paris and Stavanger, Norway. May-Treanor and Walsh have currently won their last 69 international matches with 10-straight gold medal finishes.
With four international Beach Volleyball titles to their credit in 2008, May-Treanor and Walsh have increased their FIVB record for gold medals to 35 for 59 events with $1,540,540 in earnings to rank second behind Shelda and Adriana on the all-time list. May-Treanor and Walsh have placed on a FIVB podium 50 times with 52 “final four” appearances together and a 346-35 match mark.
May-Treanor was also named the 2008 top defensive and best offensive player along with sharing the sportsperson-of-the-year honor with Walsh for the second-straight season. May-Treanor was also the top FIVB defender in 2007 along with sharing the offensive honor with Walsh the same year. In 2005, May-Treanor was named the SWATCH top setter and best offensive player.
Walsh continues as the SWATCH FIVB World Tour’s top blocker as she won the award for the fourth-straight season. She has also won out-right and shared the sportsperson-of-the-year honor the past four campaigns while being the best hitter in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The 26-year-old Larissa was named the top setter on the SWATCH circuit for the third-straight season, finishing ahead of Germany’s Sara Goller and Americans Branagh and May-Treanor, as the FIVB’s top hitter in 2008. Larissa also placed third in the voting as the top offensive player behind May-Treanor and Zhang, and received votes for three other awards, including top defender.
A knee injury to Brazilian partner Juliana Felisberta Silva in June at a stop in Paris hindered Larissa’s bid for an Olympic medal as the South American tandem entered the 2008 season as a three-time SWATCH FIVB World Tour point’s champion and a favorite to place on the Beijing podium. After placing fifth in the Olympics with Ana Paula, Larissa teamed with Vivian Cunha in mid-September to win a FIVB stop in Guarajà, Brazil.
The 29-year-old Branagh, who won SWATCH gold medals this season with Elaine Youngs (Barcelona) and Walsh (Dubai), was honored as the most improved player on the international circuit. She ended the season by placing second and third in the final two SWATCH FIVB World Tour stops in Thailand and China with Tyra Turner.
The 24-year-old Candelas was named the rookie-of-the year as she and partner Mayra Garcia posted all eight of their qualifying finishes for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Despite competing in only 11 of the 19 women’s events on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour, Candelas and Garcia were still the 29th-ranked team on the international circuit for Mexico’s best team finish since 2003.
Most Inspirational Player
Rookie of the Year
Sportsman of the Year
Best Defensive Player
Best Offensive Player
Women's SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Award Winners
Most Outstanding Player
Best Defensive Player
Best Offensive Player
Most Improved Player
Team of the Year
Women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour Points Champions
Season, Team, Country
– but the sailors praise the new boats