Lausanne, Switzerland, June 27, 2016 - The chase to Copacabana continued across five different cities on four continents over the weekend, with eight countries securing berths for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with just 39 days to go.
Twenty-two of the 24 slots per gender have now been filled as teams from Australia, Austria, Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Qatar and Venezuela secured Olympic tickets Saturday and Sunday for their countries in Continental Cup finals for the Asian, European, NORCECA and South American confederations.
For Chile, Costa Rica and Qatar, it marks the first-ever Olympic beach volleyball berths for their countries.
Chilean men’s teams captured their countries Rio 2016 Olympic spot on home sand in Santiago on Sunday after Qatar’s berth for the men’s Copacabana competition was secured early in the day across the Pacific Ocean in Cairns, Australia.
Sandwiched in between those two qualifications were advancements by Austria and Cuba in Stavanger, Norway and Guaymas, Mexico, respectively.
Women’s teams from Australia and Costa Rica netted Rio spots for their country in Cairns and Guaymas, respectively, Sunday. The Netherlands and Venezuela gained Copacabana spots for their countries in Norway and Argentina respectfully on Saturday.
For the African Volleyball Confederation, Egypt won the women’s berth for Rio in mid-April in Abuja, Nigeria. The men’s berth for the continent was contested during the first full-week of May in Kelibia, Tunisia, where the host country secured a Copacabana spot.
The final two spots in the Copacabana competition for both the men’s and women’s quadrennial in Rio will be determined July 6-10 in Sochi, Russia. Ten men’s and 12 women’s pairs will be competing in the Continental Cup Finals where the top two countries in each gender’s play will earn their beach chairs on Copacabana where the Olympic action concludes August 18.
Qatar makes history at AVC Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Qataris and Aussies seal Rio qualification at AVC Continental Cup
Being played in the gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef located in North Queensland, men’s teams from Qatar and women’s pairs from Australia secured berths for their country in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The Aussie success will give the country two pairs in the Copacabana quadrennial as Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy earned a spot for the country in Rio by finishing among the top 15 tandems, excluding Brazilians, on the FIVB World Tour.
Representing Australia in the AVC Continental Cup were Mariafe Artacho/Nicole Laird and Phoebe Bell/Becchara Palmer. The two teams combined to win six of seven matches with victories over Chinese Taipei (2-0), Japan (2-1) and Vanuatu (2-0). Artacho and Laird, the 2014 FIVB U23 world champions, were undefeated in three matches highlighted by a 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 19-17) win in 57 minutes over Linline Matauatu and Miller Pata of Vanuatu in the finals.
Palmer, who placed 19th at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Bawden, and Bell secured the Australia berth by defeating teenagers Sherysyn Toko and Loti Joe 2-0 (22-20, 21-16) in a 33-minute match as Vanuatu needed a win to force a third and deciding match between the two countries.
“The last two months, when we brought the team together, they bought in 100 per cent as a team,” Australian coach Lauren Soderberg said after her team secured a spot in Rio. “Nikki and Mariafe have been asked so many tough questions over the last two months to be better, and to make sure they were on their game, and they did it. I just feel so proud to be part of this Australian team today.”
Qatar’s winning effort in Cairns was highlighted by a “perfect” 6-0 match mark as the pairs of Jefferson Pereira/Cherif Younousse and Julio Junior/Ahmed Tijan defeated teams from Iran, Kazakhstan and China to secure their Copacabana beach chairs. All six of the Qatar matches were three-setters with four of the wins being comeback victories after losing the first set.
In the finals against China, Jefferson and Cherif posted a 2-1 (17-21, 21-15, 23-21) win in 58 minutes over Jian Li and Zhuoxin Li before Julio and Ahmed Tijan scored a 2-1 (18-21, 26-24, 15-11) victory in 62 minutes over Jian Bao and Likejiang Ha.
“We worked so hard for this moment,” said Jefferson, who teamed with Cherif to win a FIVB World Tour gold medal in February on Kish Island in Iran. Jefferson and Cherif also placed fifth at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Netherlands.
“The last month was so stressful, we trained just for this moment,” said Jefferson, who is a Rio native. “Everyone left their family and went outside to train, it was so stressful, but we did it. We are going to the Olympics. We are now part of the history of Qatar now.”
Despite finishing second and third in the AVC Continental Cup, the men’s teams from China and Kazakhstan, and the women’s pairs from Vanuatu and China will have one final opportunity to qualify for Rio. One of the Chinese women’s player is two-time Olympian and Beijing 2008 bronze medal winner Chen Xue, who is playing with 19-year old Xinyi Xia.
Cherif Younousse (left) and Jefferson Pereira of Qatar
Austria secure Rio 2016 berth
Being played on the Norwegian dockside courts in Stavanger, Austrian men’s teams and Dutch women’s pairs secured additional seats in Rio for their respective countries. While Austria will now have two men’s pairs playing on Copacabana, the Netherlands will have a full squad with two men and two women’s teams.
The Dutch teams of Jantine van der Vlist/Sophie van Gestel and Rimke Braakman/Jolien Sinnema combined to win eight of nine matches on the Stavanger dock with wins over Lithuania, Italy, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. With a 5-0 mark in the CEV Continental Cup final, van der Vlist and van Gestel secured the Rio berth for The Netherlands by defeating Ukraine’s Valentyna Davidova and Ievgeniia Shchypkova 2-1 (16-21, 21-15, 15-9) in 43 minutes in the “Golden Match” for Copacabana.
Before Braakman and Sinnema dropped their only matches of the competition to Davidova and Shchypkova 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) in 33 minutes, van der Vlist and van Gestel scored a 2-0 (21-13, 21-12) victory in 27 minutes over Ukrainian twins Inna and Iryna Makhno.
“It’s an amazing feeling and I can hardly put my emotions into words,” van der Vlist said after the Ukrainian match. “It’s a dream come true. I would like to thank the other girls on the team (Sinnema and Braakman) because they played really good this week and much credit for our eventual qualification to the Olympics should go to them as well. It was a team effort and team victory.”
For van Gestel, it marked the second-time she has qualified for the Olympics via the Continental Cup competition. For the London 2012 Games, van Gestel and Madelein Meppelink finished second in the CEV Continental Cup, but gained a Horse Guard Parade spot in the Continental Cup Finals in Moscow.
With the women’s action concluding Saturday, the men were centre stage on Sunday where Austrians Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl completed a perfect 7-0 match Stavanger mark by defeating Belgium’s Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle in the ‘Golden Match’ 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) in 38 minutes.
The setback was Koekelkoren and van Walle’s first on the docks as the pair entered the finale with a 7-0 record after defeating Austrian’s Thomas Kunert and Christoph Dressler 2-1 (21-17, 18-21, 15-12) in 48 minutes earlier on in the day Sunday prior to Huber and Seidl’s 2-0 (21-13, 21-18) win in 35 minutes over Robin Adriaensen and Bob Douwen.
“It feels amazing and I simply cannot find any words to describe my feelings,” said Seidl, who was part of Austrian wins earlier in the competition over Latvia, Turkey and Russia. “We have been working and fighting for the achievement of this ultimate goal for four years and we finally made it happen! I really have no words, I am absolutely thrilled and proud that we achieved this goal by sticking together, through the ups and downs we have had, and by staying together as a team.”
Belgium and Russia will have a second opportunity for men’s berths in Rio as their second- and third-place finishes in Stavanger earned those countries spots in the Sochi field. On the women’s side from the CEV, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Austria will join host Russia in the Sochi competition.
Jantine van der Vlist (left) and Sophie van Gestel of The Netherlands
Cuba seal men’s ticket to Rio Games
The Costa Rican women and Cuban men were successful Sunday in Guaymas by defeating pairs from Mexico and Canada, respectively, for spots in Rio. For Cuba, it marks its third trip to an Olympic beach volleyball competition after playing in the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Summer Games where the team of Francisco Alvarez/Juan Rosell placed seventh and 17th, respectively.
After posting back-to-back wins over Jamaica (3-0) and Cuba (3-2 with a 15-9 gold set win), the Costa Rican team of Karen Cope Charles/Nathalia Alfaro and Marcela Araya/Valeria Valenciano were victorious over Mexico 3-1. Cope Charles and Alfaro won five of their six matches in the competition highlighted by the golden set win against Cuba and two match successes against Mexico.
In the women’s finals, host Mexico started strong with Claudia Rios and Gloria Santoyo defeating Araya and Valenciano 2-0 (21-10, 21-12) in 30 minutes before Costa Rica bounced back with three-straight wins beginning with Cope Charles and Alfaro’s 2-1 (21-11, 11-21, 15-5) win in 44 minutes over Diana Estrada and Zaira Orellana.
Cope Charles and Alfaro, who placed 37th at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Netherlands and eighth at the 2015 PanAmerican Games in Toronto, secured Costa Rican win No. 2 with a 2-0 (21-12, 21-18) victory in 39 minutes over Rios and Santoyo. Araya and Valenciano’s 2-0 (23-21, 21-18) win in 39 minutes over Estrada and Orellena netted the Copacabana beach chairs for Costa Rica.
“It is a dream that comes true,” said Alfaro after the match. “We have been working hard for this. Today we feel so proud. We are already in Rio.”
The men’s finale pitted the Cuban pairs of Nivaldo Diaz/Sergio Gonzalez and Karell Peña/Daisel Quesada against the Canadian men’s teams of Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter and Grant O’Gorman/Sam Pedlow in a battle of contrasting Beach Volleyball experiences.
The Cubans prevailed 3-1 in the finals as Diaz and Gonzales posted a 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) win in 38 minutes over O’Gorman and Pedlow and a 2-0 (24-22, 21-18) victory in 56 minutes over Binstock and Schachter. Pena and Quesada, who were the wrong side of a 2-1 (20-22, 21-17, 15-11) score against Binstock and Schachter to open play Sunday, sealed the win for Cuba with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-13) victory in 32 minutes over O’Gorman and Pedlow.
The Canadians had more combined FIVB World Tour experience together than the Cubans (63 events as compared to one) and the Caribbean pairs had the edge by winning nine NORCECA continental tour events as compared to none for the North Americans.
Diaz and Gonzales placed ninth at the 2015 FIVB World Championships in the Netherlands and third at the 2015 PanAmerican Games. The two losses at the world championships were three-setters to teams that placed second (Reindeer Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst of the Netherlands in pool play) and third (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg of Brazil in the elimination rounds).
Binstock and Schachter were ninth at the world championships after being eliminated by American rivals Jake Gibb and Casey Paterson and eighth in the PanAm event where the Canadians were defeated in quarterfinals by eventual champions Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen of Mexico.
Led by Diaz and Gonzalez, who posted a 5-0 Guaymas record, Cuba advanced to the finals with wins over Saint Lucia (3-0) and Mexico (3-0). Canada gained a spot in the finals by defeating US Virgin Islands (3-0) and Puerto Rico (3-0).
Despite the setbacks in the finals, the Mexican women and Canadian men will have one final opportunity to qualify for Rio in Sochi. NORCECA third-place finishers Cuba in the women’s and Puerto Rico in the men’s will also have a spot in the World Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Finals after defeating teams from Guatemala and Mexico, respectively, Sunday.
Karen Cope Charles (right) hits at the net against Kira Walkenhorst of Germany) as Costa Rican partner Nathalia Alfaro follows the action.
Chile qualify for Olympics; Venezuela and Uruguay head for Sochi
With competition at two sites in Santiago, Chile for men and Rosario, Argentina for women, teams from the host country topped the men’s podium and Venezuela in the women’s South American Continental Cup finale.
In Santiago Sunday, the Chilean Grimalt cousins - Esteban and Marco - prevailed 15-11 over Venezuelans Igor Hernandez and Jesus Villafane in the “golden set” after the two countries had split the first four matches. The Grimalts had defeated Hernandez and Villafane earlier Sunday 2-0 (24-22, 21-14) followed by a 2-0 (27-25, 21-19) win over Tigrito Gomez and Peter Hernandez.
Hernandez/Villafane and Tigrito/Peter forced the “golden set” for Venezuela by defeating Chilean rivals Rodrigo Salinas and Matías Tobar. After losing to the Grimalts, Hernandez and Villafane posted a 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) win over Salinas and Tobar. Tigrito and Peter defeated Salinas and Tobar 2-0 (21-13, 21-11) in Sunday’s first match between the two South American countries.
"We knew this was a possibility because we trusted fully in the work of Rodrigo and Matias,” said Esteban Grimalt. “The victory is not only ours, but for all the people that supported us."
With both Chile and Venezuela entering Sunday’s match undefeated with 4-0 records after each beat pairs from Argentina, Colombia, French Guyana, Uruguay, the “golden set” was predictable. Both the Grimalts (No. 21) and Hernandez/Villafane (No. 25) finished among the leaders on the FIVB World Tour Olympic qualifying list where 15 pairs, excluding Brazilians, earned Copacabana berths.
The Grimalts posted a 10-0 match mark in the CSV Continental Cup with a 2-0 record in “golden sets”. Despite losing twice on both Saturday and Sunday, Salinas and Tobar were 4-2 in their other matches against Colombia, French Guyana and Uruguay. Hernandez and Villafane’s only setback in Santiago was to the Grimalts while Tigrito and Peter were 7-3.
In Rosario Saturday, women’s teams of Rebeca/Olaya Pazo and Norisbeth Agudo/Gabriela (Gabi) Brito clinched their Rio berth for Venezuela. On Sunday, Venezuela finished the competition with a 5-0 match mark by defeating winless Chile 3-2 as the Pazos won the “golden set” 15-13 over Maria Francisca Zapata and Pilar Mardones. Earlier, the Venezuelan teams defeated tandems from Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay and Argentina to earn their country’s first-ever Beach Volleyball Olympic Games berth.
The Venezuela women won 16 of 20 matches in Rosario with each team posting 8-2 records. The Venezuelans secured their Rio spot Saturday when Agudo and Babi posted a 2-1 (21-13, 19-21, 15-10) win in 41 minutes over Argentina’s Julieta Puntín and Irene Verasio. With Argentina’s Maria Julia Benet sidelined with an injury, London 2012 Olympians Maria Zonta was forced to withdraw from her team’s two matches to hand Venezuela the victory.
“This is the reward for strong and determined work to qualify for the Olympics,” Rebeca Pazo said. Sister Olaya added that “qualifying will help beach volleyball grow in our country. It is a moment of great happiness.”
Esteben (left) and Marco Grimalt of Chile
South America will be represented in the Continental Cup Finals in Sochi by the men’s and women’s teams from Uruguay along with the Colombian women and Venezuelan men.