Espinho, Portugal, June 15, 2007 - It was a great day for Brazilian Beach Volleyball here Saturday on the Praia da Baia as two women’s tandems from the South American country captured medals in the US$400,000 Open of Portugal to join three men’s teams in earning podium spots.
While the order of finish for the men will be decided Sunday with four Brazilian teams competing for the medals, Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca joined rivals Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour podium for the first-time this season.
Both teams have won 2007 SWATCH titles with Talita and Renata the Singapore champions and Juliana and Larissa the gold medal winners in Poland last week. The Brazilian women defeated Beach Volleyball pairs from Europe Saturday afternoon when the morning rains eased until the gold medal match.
Second-seeded Juliana and Larissa captured their 16th SWATCH title to share the $32,000 first-place prize to put the Brazilians in position to become the third women’s team and fourth overall tandem to exceed the $1-million mark in FIVB earnings next week in Paris, the first of five “major” stops on the 2007 international Beach Volleyball calendar.
With their 17-21, 21-16 and 15-13 win in 58 minutes over 13th-seeded Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig of Germany, Juliana and Larissa have now split $992,950 in SWATCH winnings since forming their partnership 42 FIVB events ago at the start of the 2004 season. During this stretch, Juliana and Larissa have 33 SWATCH medals with 22-straight “final four” finishes.
Brazilians Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede ($2,146,765) and Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos ($1,274,730) top the women’s and men’s team FIVB earnings list, respectively, with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh from the United States third ($1,100,540). All three teams are SWATCH-FIVB World champions while Emanuel/Ricardo and May-Treanor/Walsh the reigning Olympic champions.
“I think our experience was the difference today,” said the 25-year old Larissa, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the Open of Portugal. “Sara and Laura were playing for their first SWATCH title while we were competing for the 26th-time in a FIVB finale. The Germans are a very competitive team and will give a lot of team’s trouble this season.”
After winning seven-straight matches in the Open of Portugal, including two in Tuesday’s qualifier, Goller and Ludwig were seeking Germany’s first-ever women’s gold medal. German teams had dropped one gold medal match in 2003 to a team from the Netherlands, and now have been defeated five times by Brazilians, including the country’s last appearance in a finale against Juliana and Larissa at the Mallorca stop in July 2004 by Susanne Lahme and Danja Musch.
With their biggest Beach Volleyball payday, Goller and Ludwig split the $22,000 second-place prize. “We are disappointed with the results since we won the first set against the top team in the world the past two seasons,” said the 21-year old Ludwig. “However, we are pleased with our overall play.”
Despite the Open of Portugal finish, Goller and Ludwig will have to win a country quota match Monday along with two qualifying matches Tuesday at the next SWATCH-FIVB World Tour stop in Paris to advance to the Main Draw Wednesday in the $600,000 event at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
In the bronze medal match, Talita and Renata out-lasted 18th-seeded Vasso Karadassiou and Vassiliki Arvaniti of Greece 21-15, 17-21 and 16-14 in 61 minutes to split the $16,000 third-place prize. The Greeks earned $12,000 for their first SWATCH semi-final appearance this season.
The first of 11-straight double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, the 13th annual Open of Portugal concludes Sunday when top-seeded Emanuel and Ricardo face second-seeded Pedro Cunha and Franco Neto for the men’s gold medal. The bronze medal match features sixth-seeded Harley Marques and Pedro Salgado against seventh-seeded Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes.
The 2007 international Beach Volleyball calendar also features qualifying for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games along with the $1-million SWATCH-FIVB World Championships July 24-29 in Swiss village of Gstaad. With nearly $9-million in prize money to be distributed this year, the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour will also stage grand slam stops in Norway, Berlin and Austria.