2015-10-04 17:00:00 CEST
Sunday’s medal rounds at the inaugural Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals set a new standard for the sport, and provided a jawdropping preview of the level of play to come when beach volleyball takes center stage at the 2016 Olympics.
Brazilian men and women were golden, but not without a colossal fight from the silver medalists of United States and Germany.
By the time the men’s gold medal climax got underway at the inaugural Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals on Sunday, the atmosphere was electric, with the capacity grandstands and overflow crowd at the oceanside big screen super-charged after two incredible bronze medal bouts and a breathtaking battle for women’s gold. Brazil had swept all three, thrilling South American fans and leaving the horde of US supporters ravenous to see the tournament’s only remaining Americans take home an ultimate home-country triumph against Brazilian arch-rivals. But there was no beating the man they call The Mammoth.
The crowds were on their feet for Florida’s own Nick Lucena and Olympic Gold Medalist Phil Dalhausser, as well as for reigning FIVB World Champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt, who are adored by the area’s massive contingent of Brazilians. The teams were one-all in their two previous matches of the season, and with a $100,000 prize – the biggest of the FIVB World Tour – for the winning pair, as well as the honor of being crowned best of the best in the important new tournament, they came out fighting. While the Americans played with skill and heart, the speed of Bruno and the blocks of the “mammoth” 6’8“, 233-pound Alison were insurmountable. The Brazilians won 21-13, 21-15 to clinch the gold and conclude their season with the unprecedented achievement of being named FIVB World Champions and World Tour Finals Champions in a single year.
“We’ve done our job for this season, and I’m really happy for that,” said Bruno. “This was a big finish to the year for sure and we’re tired and have some injuries to take care of, but I’m already excited to start getting ready for 2016 – it’s going to be even better.”
In the women’s gold medal match, American fans took Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst to their hearts, cheering the Europeans in long rallies against Brazil’s Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, who had been dominating the FIVB World Tour with a 26-match winning streak that began following a July loss to none other than Ludwig and Walkenhorst. The big crowd of Brazilian fans rivaled the Americans’ screams, driving Larissa and Talita to win number 27 in a two-set thriller – 21-17, 21-18 – and claim the women’s title.
“This is a special day,” said Talita. “With the 10 best teams in the world here, you have to play every match from the beginning of the week like a final – at a high level all the time. After missing the podium at the World Championships this year, this tournament was really important for us and we wanted the victory so much.”
In the morning’s bronze medal matches, Brazil went two for two. Reigning FIVB World Champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas were victorious against Canada’s Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley, while Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg, a new pairing who claimed bronze at Worlds, triumphed over the Dutch World Champions from 2013, Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen.
RESULTS, SWATCH BEACH VOLLEYBALL FIVB WORLD TOUR FINALS: SUNDAY, OCT. 4
Women, Bronze Medal Match
Agatha/Barbara Seixas (Brazil) win vs. Bansley/Pavan (Canada): 22-20, 14-21, 15-10
Women, Gold Medal Match
Larissa/Talita (Brazil) win vs. Ludwig/Walkenhorst (Germany): 21-17, 21-18
Men, Bronze Medal Match
Evandro/Pedro Solberg (Brazil) win vs. Brouwer/Meeuwsen (Netherlands): 21-19, 21-14
Men, Gold Medal Match
Alison/Bruno Schmidt (Brazil) win vs. Dalhausser/Lucena (USA): 21-13, 21-15