2014 FIVB World Tour debuts with Fuzhou Open
Pre-season training is complete, several partnerships have been switched and others are re-confirmed, as the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball launches the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour this week in Fuzhou, China.
The season-opening, double-gender, US$150,000 FIVB Fuzhou Open will see the men’s competition running Tuesday through Saturday, and women’s competition running Wednesday through Sunday. The Open event uses a format of a one-day qualification tournament to determine the final eight spots in each gender’s 32-team main draw tournaments, followed by round-robin pool play and a single-elimination bracket for the final 24 teams. It is the second year in a row that the FIVB beach volleyball season kicks off in Fuzhou, at the purpose-built site on the sands of Mianjiang Riverside Park.
Reflecting the enthusiasm of a new season, 66 men’s teams from 29 countries and 55 women’s teams from 25 countries – all selected by their national federations – are officially entered in the talented field of the Fuzhou Open.
As the excitement builds for the season opener, here are 10 things to look out for, and look forward to, in this year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour season opener:
NO. 1’s RETURN
While there are a number of new partnerships slated to start the season in China, both the No. 1 men’s and No. 1 women’s team in the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Rankings return as early favorites to repeat as the top teams in the world. For the men, Latvia’s No. 1 ranked Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins (61-14 with a 81.3 percent winning percentage in 2013) return for the men, while Brazil’s No. 1 duo Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima (61-10, 85.9 percent) are also back on the court this year.
After sitting out last year’s FIVB World Tour, Brazil’s iconic Juliana Felisberta Silva returns to the beach with veteran Maria Antonelli. Juliana played domestically in 2013 following the retirement of her legendary teammate Larissa Franca, with whom she won an unprecedented seven FIVB World Tour season point championships between 2005 and 2012 and the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. Juliana and Antonelli will start the year by playing in the women’s qualification tournament in Fuzhou. Antonelli played last season with Agatha Bednarczuk and finished fifth in the FIVB World Rankings.
The 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar features a record purse of US$10.2 million, with a season that extends from late April to mid-December at 21 venues in 18 countries. This year’s FIVB World Tour includes a record 10 FIVB Grand Slam events, the inaugural Grand Slam Final and 11 FIVB Open Tournaments around the world, helping expand the door for development of the sport.
FIVB Grand Slam competitions, all double-gender, feature eight tournaments with $800,000 in total purses, while the events at The Hague, Netherlands and Long Beach will have $1 million each in prize money – the most in FIVB Grand Slam history.
The 11 FIVB Open tournaments – seven double-gender, two men-only and two women-only – will have $150,000 total in prize money for the double gender events and $75,000 for the single-gender competitions.
As the host nation of the Fuzhou Open, China will receive three teams in each gender pre-seeded into the main draw. For the men, China’s teams are Likejiang Ha and Cheng Chen, Jiaxin Wu and Jian Li, and Cong Yang and Jian Bao will compete. The women’s teams pre-seeded from China are Fan Wang and Yuan Yue, Yuanyuan Wang and Yuanyuan Ma, and Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia. China’s two teams in the women’s qualification tournament are Meimei Lin and Ningya Tang, and Xinxin Wang and Yixin Zheng. China also has one men’s reserve team, Zhuoxin Li and Lizeng Zhang.
Fans can get to know some of these Chinese athletes by participating in a special Q&A feature on FIVB’s Facebook page.
FAMILIAR FACES, NEW TEAMS
With several partner switches during the off-season, the new men’s teams featuring top players from different partnerships last season are: Brazil’s Pedro Salgado and Emanuel Rego, Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, and Brazil’s Marcio Araujo and Thiago Santos Barbosa. Besides Brazil’s Juliana and Antonelli, other new women’s teams feature top athletes from Brazil, Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas, Liliane Maestrini and Eduardo Lisboa, the USA’s Jennifer Fopma and Whitney Pavlik, Brittany Hochevar and Lane Carico, and China’s Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia.
While the new teams will have an immediate impact on the competition, numerous top-ranked teams from last year will be playing together in Fuzhou, including Latvia’s No. 1 ranked Samoilovs and Smedins, Italy’s Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai (No. 3 in 2013 FIVB World Rankings), Brazil’s Alvaro Filho and Ricardo Santos (No. 5), Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera (No. 8), and Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Dyachenko and Alexey Sidorenko (No. 9).
On the women’s side, the top 10 ranked teams from 2013 entered in Fuzhou include Brazil’s No. 1 ranked Antunes and Lima, Brazilian sisters Carolina Salgado and Maria Clara Salgado (No. 2), Germany’s Katrin Holtwick and Semmler (No. 3), Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst (No. 4), and Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez (No. 6).
Gold medal teams from the 2013 Fuzhou Open will try to repeat their success this week. USA’s Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal will compete together, while China’s veteran two-time Olympian Chen Xue will try to find success with new partner Xi Zhang among the other women.
Also on the men’s podium last year were Italian Olympians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai (silver) and Austria’s Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl (bronze).
Rounding out the women’s podium were Spanish Olympians Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez (silver) and German Olympian’s Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler (bronze).
As part of the initiatives of FIVB President Dr Ary S. Graça F° and his leadership team, the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball international calendar also includes a record four age-group FIVB World Championships along with the 2014 Nanjing (China) Youth Olympic Games. The FIVB Beach Volleyball U17 World Championships will debut this year, while the U23 championships will make its second appearance. This year will mark the 14th annual U21 championships and the 13th annual U19 championships.
Visiting Fuzhou for the second time, the FIVB Fuzhou Open will be the 18th all-time FIVB World Tour men’s event and 27th FIVB World Tour women’s tournament in China. In 2014, China is again hosting three FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour events. Visiting the same three venues as in 2013, 2014’s tour will also include the FIVB Shanghai Grand Slam (April 29-May 4) and the FIVB Xiamen Open (Oct. 7-12). All three will be double-gender events.
China will also hosting the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing (Aug. 17-27)
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
The gold medal teams in each gender in the FIVB Fuzhou Open will each split $11,000, the silver $8,000, the bronze $6,000 and fourth place $4,500. The men medal matches will be held Saturday and the women’s medal matches will be held Sunday.
The FIVB Fuzhou Open will be the 298th FIVB men’s event since the FIVB began play in 1987 and the 261st FIVB women’s tournament since they started in 1992. The tournament will also be 81st men’s and 74th women’s FIVB Beach Volleyball Grand Slam events.