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2015-09-29 15:00:00 CEST

Beach volleyball stars shine in the spotlight as new season highlight tournament kicks off in Fort Lauderdale

Top international teams contend for $100,000 first-place prizes in historic first Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals on Sept. 29–Oct. 4

The historic first-ever Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals kicked off in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA on Tuesday with an oceanside press conference and the world’s best clashing in championship-quality play right from the opening rounds. Putting a spotlight on the top international teams exclusively, the new tournament is also the most important of the season, not only crowning the FIVB World Tour Finals Champions but delivering high-quality play that’s a preview of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Every match could be an FIVB World Tour final.

Photocredit: Andreas LangreiterPhotocredit: Andreas Langreiter

Headlining the press conference were beach volleyball stars Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena and April Ross of the USA – all of whom have strong local Florida ties.

“I was injured for two months this season and I missed the World Championships and a lot of qualifying opportunities, so this is a great place to see where Nick and I are as a team heading toward the Olympics – how we match up against all the top teams,” said Dalhausser, the 2007 World Champion and 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist who is a legend in the sport. “Growing up I won a couple of amateur tournaments here, so hopefully I can win a professional tournament in Fort Lauderdale this week.”

Ten men’s teams and ten women’s teams from around the world – including past Olympians, current World Champions and Brazil’s entire beach volleyball team for the 2016 games – are vying not only for the top honor but for the biggest prize of the FIVB World Tour season – $100,000 to each of the victorious men’s and women’s teams – which will be awarded on the sands of the purpose-built, 4,000-seat Center Court.

Photocredit: Andreas LangreiterPhotocredit: Andreas Langreiter

Lucena acknowledged the pressure, saying, “These are the best teams in the world, so it will be tough to win any match, but if you have Phil on your team, you’ve got a good chance. I was born in this area, and this is shaping up to be the best tournament that’s ever been here.”

Ross, the Olympic silver medalist from 2012 who is playing with new partner Lauren Fendrick in Florida, added, “We’re motivated to play hard here – while we’re still learning to mesh together, we have to play at the top of our game in every single match.”

The world’s best clash in the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals beginning with play on Center Court at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park on Tuesday, September 29, with action continuing through the final rounds on Saturday and Sunday, October 3–4, where the FIVB World Tour Finals Champions will be crowned. Admission is free.