Leading medal hopefuls at the Rio 2016 Olympics are podium placers at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Hague (left to right) - Christiaan Varenhorst, Reinder Nummerdor, Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Alison Cerutti, Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 4, 2016 - Despite playing a limited schedule on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar, the Brazilian pairs over Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg are the overwhelming favorites to be two of the three men’s teams to reach the Beach Volleyball podium at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
With their Rio 2016 Summer Games berth secured since September 2015 when the Brazilian Volleyball federation announced the two teams as its entries for the Copacabana quadrennial, Alison/Bruno and Evandro/Pedro have played in a combined 15 events since October 2015 where a total of 20 men’s event have been staged on the international circuit.
Of the combined 15 starts, the Brazilian men’s Olympic entries have won only three gold medals with seven podium placements and eight “final four” finishes. Two of the three FIVB tournament titles came in the last two appearances by the Brazilian pairs on the world tour. Alison and Bruno topped the podium at the Porec Major in Croatia (July 3) and Evandro and Pedro captured gold at the Gstaad Major in Switzerland (July 10).
“Our limited schedule has been by designed,” said the 29-year old Bruno, who is playing in his first Olympic Games as are Evandro and Pedro. Alison will be competing in the Summer Games for the second time after claiming the silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics with the legendary Emanuel Rego as the pair dropped the finale to Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany in three sets.
“Alison and I worked hard last season to secure our Rio berth as we had to compete against other Brazilian pairs that had the same goals as us in playing in the Olympics in our home country,” said Bruno. “We know that we are one of the favorites to win a medal and we welcome that role. Alison and I will be ready, but so will the other 23 men’s teams. It is a deep and competitive field. Our goal is to stay focused and take it one match at a time. Every team will said the same thing. We cannot look ahead to the next match. We just need to play hard and worry about the opponent we are playing.”
Alison and Bruno, the 2015 FIVB world champions and top qualifier from the FIVB World Tour, will be playing in Pool A along with pairs from Austria, Canada and Italy. Evandro and Pedro, the host country entrant and No. 4 finisher on the international circuit’s Olympic qualifying list, will be competing in the “toughest” group with teams from Canada, Cuba and Latvia in Pool D.
The top two pairs from each pool will advance to the 16-team elimination bracket along with the best two third-place finishers from the groups. The last four third-place finishers will playoff for the last two spots in the elimination bracket. Here is a look at each pool.
Pool A - Alison and Bruno are heavy favorites to win pool that includes Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst of Austria, Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri of Italy and Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter of Canada. The Brazilians have a combined 17-1 record against the three other Pool A teams with the only setback being to Doppler and Horst in June 2015. After that defeat, Alison and Bruno won the next six of their next seven FIVB World Tour starts with a match record of 47-5.
Rio 2016 Olympic Games medal favorites Bruno (left) and Alison
Pool B - Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands, the 2013 FIVB world champions, headline the group that includes Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak of Poland, Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen of Germany and Dmitri Barsouk/Nikita Liamin of Russia. The Dutch have a combined 6-1 FIVB World Tour record against their group opponents. The Dutch, Poles and Germans have a history of success on Copacabana. Kantor and Losiak captured the gold medal last March at the Rio Grand Slam where the Dutch placed third. Bockermann and Fluggen were second at last September’s Rio Open, a “test” event for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Dutchmen Meeuwsen (left) and Brouwer
Pool C - At the start of the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Americans Phil Dalhausser (Sean Rosenthal) and Nick Lucena (Theo Brunner) were playing with different partners. However, Dalhausser and Lucena rekindled a partnership from the mid-2000s and made a frantic bid for Copacabana by playing in 13 Rio qualifying events to secure their Rio berth. Dalhausser and Lucena have a 3-3 mark against the other teams in their pool that features Daniele Lupo/Paolo Nicolai of Italy, Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen of Mexico and Choaib Belhaj/Mohamed Naceur of Tunisia. Lupo and Nicolai, who eliminated Dalhausser and Todd Rogers from the London 2012 Olympic Games, have three FIVB titles to their credit and defeated the Americans at the end of May in Moscow. The Mexicans have posted pool play wins over Dalhausser and Lucena at the start of July in Croatia and Switzerland. The Tunisians, who placed 33rd at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Netherlands, are the African confederation’s Continental Cup winners.
Americans Lucena (left) and Dalhausser
Pool D - Evandro and Pedro have 1-0 match marks against each team in their group that includes Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia, Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk of Canada and Nivaldo Diaz / Sergio Gonzalez of Cuba. Samoilovs and Smedins rank as one of the “hottest” teams on the FIVB World Tour with first-, fourth-, third- and first-place finishes in their last four international events by winning 24 of their last 31 matches. Saxton and Schalk prepare for Rio by posting impressive bronze medal finishes at the SWATCH Major Series events in Croatia and Austria where the Canadians split a pair of “final four” matches with the Latvians. Despite playing in only one FIVB World Tour event, the Cubans have been impressive on the NORCECA tour with eight gold medals and won the confederation’s Continental Cup event. Evandro and Pedro were extended to three-sets by the Cubans in an elimination match at the 2015 FIVB World Championships where Diaz and Gonzales won three of five matches to place ninth.
Brazilians Pedro (left) and Evandro
Pool E - Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst, the silver medal winners from the 2015 FIVB World Championships, headline the group that features Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Konstantin Semenov of Russia, Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland and the Grimalt cousins (Esteban and Marco) of Chile. The Dutch have an 8-3 combined record against their group mates. The Poles have been Olympic tested after placing ninth in London where Fijalek and Prudel were eliminated in three sets by Alison and Emanuel. Semenov and Serguey Prokopyev placed ninth in London and played in the same pool with Brink and Reckermann. The Grimalts, the South American confederations’ Continental Cup winners, posted an impressive ninth at March’s Rio Grand Slam where the cousins eliminated legendary Brazilians Emanuel and Ricardo Santos. The March 11 match was Emanuel’s last FIVB World Tour contest.
Nummerdor (left) and Varenhorst of the Netherlands
Pool F - The group features two pairs that qualified via the FIVB World Tour and two that secured Rio berths via the Continental Cup competition. Americans Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson and Spaniards Adrian Gavira/Pablo Herrera are experienced pairs and finished sixth (5,680 points) and seventh (5,500) on the Rio list for their best 12 finishes during the Olympic qualifying. Gibb, who placed fifth at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics with Rosenthal, and Patterson are 7-2 against Rio pool opponents, Gavira and Herrera, who placed ninth in London, are 4-4 against group foes. Herrera is competing in his fourth Olympics as he won the silver medal at the Athens 2004 Summer Games with Javier Bosma and placed ninth with Raul Mesa in the Beijing 2008 quadrennial. Other Pool F teams are Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl of Austria, the European confederation’s Continental Cup champions, and Jefferson Santos Pereira/Cherif Younousse of Qatar, who were the Asian confederation Continental Cup winners.
Herrera, Gavira and Gibb are closely matched in Pool F