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Marco and Esteban Grimalt are the team to beat right now. In the FIVB 4-star Doha final the Chilean cousins and 3-star Sydney winners claimed the first 4-star gold of their careers against US legends Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.

The final was a clear two-set win (21:15, 21:15) for the Chileans who showed a great performance against Dalhausser/Lucena. They took advantage of a Phil Dalhausser not playing at the top of his game during the entire match. Several missed serves and hits as well as trials to go over on two gave the Chileans some quick and easy points.

Marco and Esteban Grimalt had played a tough semifinal against Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl (Poland) which they won in three sets (18:21, 21:14, 15:12). In the quarterfinals the Chileans had beaten Italian top team Nicolai/Lupo in another three-setter. It is the first 4-star win in the Grimalts’ career. Last week they surprised at the FIVB 3-star in Sydney where they also won the gold medal. Esteban Grimalt:

“The last two weeks were great. We are so proud. Our first match on the World Tour eight years ago was against Phil Dalhausser. It’s incredible. It is a 4-star with the best teams in the world. Nick and Phil are a wonderful team. They were idols for us when we started playing beach volleyball.”

Nevertheless, the US oldies (both 39) played a good tournament. After beating Polish top team Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak in the quarterfinals, they posted a semifinal win against Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira (Spain). Today’s gold medal match was their first final since last year’s Fort Lauderdale Major win. Dalhausser/Lucena had not played on the World Tour since the Vienna Major last August.

The bronze medal went to Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira from Spain who defated Grzegorz Fijalek and Michal Bryl (21:17, 22:20).

The medal matches can be watched again at the FIVB Youtube channel.

 

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It was a close match between Australia and the U.S. in the women’s gold medal match of the FIVB 3-star in Sydney. But in the end, Australian surpise team Nicole Laird and Becchara Palmer beat Betsi Flint and Emily Day in three sets (21:19, 16:21, 15:13). For the Aussies, it was only for the second time that they apperared together on the FIVB World Tour. Coming through the qualification, they delighted the local crowd at Manly Beach. Nicole Laird:

“It is just like a dream. We felt everybody’s support. There is no better place to play beach volleyball than Manly Beach. “

In the semifinal, Nicole Laird and Becchara Palmer had beaten three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat in another three-set match (21:18, 18:21, 15:12). Coming up with early leads in all three sets, the Aussies managed to make it into the gold medal match in front of their home crowd.

The second semifinal was dominated from the start by Americans Betsi Flint and Emily Day against Chinese pair Wang/X.Y. Xia. The Americans who had beaten number 2 seeds Borger/Sude (Germany) in the quarterfinals, forced the Chinese into early time-outs in both sets. After winning the first set (21:18), they had an easy run in the second (21:16). Looking ahead to the final, the Americans knew they were heading into a tough match:

“It will be hard to play an Australian team here on that court.”

Bronze also went to the U.S. after Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat beat Wang/X.Y. Xia in the bronze medal match (21:19, 21:19).

On the men’s side, Chilean brothers Marco and Esteban Grimalt claimed gold with a two-set win over Enrico Rossi and Adrian “Mr. Skyball” Carambula from Italy (21:18, 21:12). It is the Chileans fourth medal at the World Tour. Esteban Grimalt:

“We knew there’s a big Chilean community here in Sydney. So they made a big announcement on social media that we are competing here. We felt like locals in the end. We played with a good atmosphere from start to finish.”

The Italians Rossi/Carambula had beaten Americans Stafford Slick and Billy Allen in the semifinals. Slick/Allen claimed bronze for the U.S. against Youssef Krou and Edouard Rowlandson. The French had to concede the bronze medal match after Krou had suffered a shoulder dislocation in the semifinal.

You can check out all results at the official event page and rewatch the livestream of the medal matches here.

 

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American men’s teams had a strong start at the FIVB 3-star in Sydney, an event that is part of the Olympic qualification process for Tokyo 2020. Five teams made it into the round of 16 that was played today at beautiful Manly Beach. While Theo Brunner and Olympic volleyball champion Reid Priddy as well as William Kolinske and Miles Evans lost their matches against Estonian and French teams, three US teams advanced to the quarterfinals.

Beach volleyball veteran John Hyden and his partner Ryan “Avatar” Doherty beat Italians Abbiati/Andreatti in three sets. Stafford Slick and Billy Allen eliminated Arnas Rumsevicius and Lukas Kazdailis from Lithuania. And top seeds Jake Gibb and Taylor Crab battled successfully against Chinese team Gao/Li. After a tight first set, the two Americans had an easy run in the second taking advantage of an injury on the opponent’s side (24:22, 21:17).

In the quarterfinals that will be played tomorrow, Hyden/Doherty will face Enrico Rossi and Adrian “Mr. Skyball” Carambula from Italy. In an all-American duel, Stafford Slick and Billy Allen will play against Jake Gibb and Taylor Crab. Further quarterfinal matches are the Grimalt brothers (Chile) playing Tilsaar/Nolvak (Estonia) and French team Krou/Rowlandson facing Msykiv/Samoday (Russia).

On the women’s side, only one Australian team delighted the local crowds. Nicole Laird and Becchara Palmer made it into the quarterfinals. Top-seeds Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy showed a convincing performance in the first set but finally lost against Germans Karla Borger and Julia Sude in an early top teams’ clash. The number 2 seeds from Germany beat the top-seeded Aussies in three sets (15:21, 21:19, 15:11). In the quarterfinals the Germans will face Betsi Flint and Emily Day who followed Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings as second US team in the women’s quarterfinals.

You can check out the schedule at the official event page and watch the livestream here.

 

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Kira Walkenhorst (28) is going to end her beach volleyball career for health reasons. With her partner Laura Ludwig (32) she had dominated women’s beach volleyball in recent years. After winning the Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016, they did also win the World Championships in Vienna and the World Tour Finals in 2017.

Walkenhorst has been struggling with back, hip and shoulder problems for many years. After skipping the 2018 season, Walkenhorst/Ludwig had planned to return to the international beach volleyball scene this February. Laura Ludwig had given birth last year but has been working on her comeback in the past months. Due to Walkenhorst’s ongoing health problems, they had to postpone their return last December. Now Walkenhorst announced:

“This decision was by far the toughest of my career. I was looking forward to reuniting with Laura all year long, then having to cancel her just before the start of the Olympic qualifying session hits me hard… I would like nothing better than to continue with Laura and my great team where we left off in 2017… Perhaps I have pushed the warning signals of my body in the last few years too much into the background, at least my body allows me no more competitive sports.”

Walkenhorst’s career end will severely endanger Laura Ludwig’s goal to defend her Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 games. Ludwig’s new partner will be former indoor national player Margareta Kozuch (32) who had partnered up with Karla Borger in the last season. Kozuch had already announced that she and Karla Borger go separate ways:

“I am thankful to Karla for our time together and that with her support I made it into beach volleyball. Now I’m looking forward to new challenges in beach volleyball.”

Margareta Kozuch & Laura Ludwig

Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch at the Porec Major in 2017 (Credit: Beach Major Series)

Margareta Kozuch started with beach volleyball in 2016 and is a dedicated blocker. She has played more than 300 indoor volleyball matches for the German national team. Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch have played together before when they participated in the 2017 Porec Major Series event. Laura Ludwig about her new partner:

“Maggie has everything you need, she’s incredibly athletic, she has an insane ball control, she’s a real fighter, she’s ready to invest a lot and she wants to go full throttle with our team, and we’re all looking forward to our project.”

The new team will be coached by Jurgen Wagner who coached Ludwig and Walkenhorst to Olympic gold in 2016. On their way to prepare for the 2019 World Championships on home turf in Hamburg, their first competition as a new team could be the FIVB 4-star in Xiamen (China) in April.

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Ana Patricia and Rebecca from Brazil won the year’s first FIVB event at The Hague, Netherlands. In the final they beat Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes (USA) in two straight sets to claim their first 4-star World Tour gold medal after winning silver at the FIVB 4-Star Las Vegas in October 2018. After a quick and easy first set win, the Brazilians had to fight back in the second set to finally win the gold medal match 2:0 (21:10, 21:18). Ana Patricia Ramos:

“It was very hard because the USA have very strong teams, but we stuck together and we are very happy to have this victory…It is a great birthday present for our coach.”

In the semifinals the Brazilians had beaten the second American team in the final four. Against the “A-team” Alix Klineman and April Ross they could turn around early leads from the Americans in both sets. Strong serving from April Ross didn’t help the A-team since both Ross and Klineman were heavily struggling with service reception. Ana Patricia’s strong blocking and Rebecca’s consistent side-out were enough to stop the defending champions (21:17, 21:19). After their semifinal defeat Klineman/Ross did also lose the bronze medal match against Lahti/Parkkinen from Finland.

In the men’s competition it was Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov (Russia) who claimed the gold medal against German younsters Clemens Wickler and Julius Thole who had beaten local heroes Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen in the semifinals. The final was a straight two-set win for the Russians (21:11, 21:18).

FIVB World Tour 2019 The Hague

Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov

But not only in the final did they show a very strong performance. Before they had defeated World Tour number one team Anders Mol and Christian Sorum from Norway in the quarterfinals. And in the semifinals they had beaten their Russian compatriots Konstantin Semenov and Ilya Leshukov who claimed the bronze medal against Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen. Blocking machine Oleg Stoyanovskiy after the final:

“It wasn’t simple. The Germans put service pressure on us. It is hard to play them…We don’t have time to celebrate because we are now going on our first training camp.”

 

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In the end, the FIVB 3-star event in Chetumal (Mexico) turned out to be a North American Championship. Only teams from the U.S. and Canada made it to the semifinals. And just as in Las Vegas last weekend, Canadians Brandie Wilkerson and Heather Bansley claimed gold after beating Caitlin Ledoux and Geena Urango (USA) in the final.

The final was a one-sided match. Against the American qualifiers Bansley/Wilkerson won in two straight sets (21:12, 21:13). Several service winners and consistent side-out was the key to the victory that was never at risk.  For the Canadian world ranking leaders it was their third FIVB gold medal this year after winning Warsaw and Las Vegas which secured them another 600 points in the Olympic qualification process. Heather Bansley after the final:

“We came here to get some valuable Olympic qualification points and this is a big win for us. The fans were amazing, they pushed us all the way to the final and it was a really special tournament.”

In the semifinals, the Canadians had beaten three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat (USA) who claimed bronze against Canadian newcomers Megan and Nicole McNamara. In convincing manner Bansley/Wilkerson had dominated their American counterparts and won in two sets (21:18, 21:17). Brandie Wilkerson’s strong serving and attacking caused a lot of trouble, especially for Walsh Jennings who struggled with Wilkerson’s unconventional serve. After the match, Wilkerson who was born in Switzerland to an American father and a Swiss mother, showed great humor in the post-match interview. Being asked how many passports she holds, Brandie’s reply in Spanish honored the local Mexican crowd:

“Three. But I am looking for a Mexican one!”

FIVB 3-star event in Chetumal (Mexico)

Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson

Obviously the Canadian world ranking leaders cannot do any wrong right now…

 

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