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World's best set for 2011 beach volleyball season

posted Apr 11, 2011, 2:28 PM by Laurie Peterka
Germany's Laura Ludwig/Sara Goller (silver), Brazil's Larissa Franca/Juliana Felisberta Silva (gold) and Brazil's Carolina and Maria Clara Salgado (bronze) shared the podium at last year's Brasilia Open
Reprinted from FIVB e-news, April 11, 2011

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 9, 2011 – With both the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour and the FIVB Swatch World Championships fast approaching, 2011 is expected to be another banner year for the sport. All four reigning gold-medal teams from the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 FIVB World Championships will be competing, and the looming prospect of the London 2012 Olympic Games should increase the attention and focus an extra level with many tandems bidding for a priceless Olympic berth.

This year's FIVB Swatch World Tour, which starts with the Brasilia Open from April 17-23 in Brazil, includes six Grand Slam events in addition to the FIVB Swatch World Championships. There will be 12 double-gender events along with two single-gender events for men and four for women. The total purse for the 2011 World Tour is $7.64 million with the six Grand Slams featuring prize money of $600,000. Another highlight of the 2011 season will be the special single-gender 24-team women's Olympic test event to be held from August 9-14 at London's Horse Guards Parade, venue for the beach volleyball competition at the 2012 Games, the XXX Olympiad.

For the 2011 season-opener in Brazil's capital city, a total of 80 men's and 65 women's teams from 36 countries have officially entered to compete for the $380,000 prize money. Brasilia will be celebrating its 51st anniversary on April 21 and leading the parade of nations on the Esplanada dos Ministerios in Quadrante 1 in the men's event will be the reigning Olympic champions, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers of the United States, and 2009 FIVB world champions Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany.

Dalhausser/Rogers, who have collected 17 World Tour gold medals together, earned their first World Tour points championship in 2010 by winning a FIVB-record nine gold medals in the 12 events they entered, including Grand Slam titles in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Poland. They picked up $387,700 – more than double the earnings of the second-placed team of Alison Cerutti/Emanuel Rego of Brazil. Brink/Reckermann, meanwhile, claimed four event gold medals en route to landing the 2009 World Tour title. Last season, the top German duo were troubled by injuries and did not win an event, finishing fifth in season points.

In addition to Dalhausser/Rogers, Alison/Emanuel and Brink/Reckermann, the other men's top 10 teams expected at the Brasilia curtain-raiser are Spain's Adrian Gavira Collado/Pablo Herrera (third in 2010), China's Penggen Wui/Linyin Xu (fourth), Brazil's Marcio Araujo/Ricardo Santos (sixth), Brazil's Benjamin Insfran/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (seventh), and Poland's Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel (ninth). Brazil's Harley Marques, who finished eighth last year and won the tour title in 2008 with Pedro Salgado, is set to play with Thiago Santos Barbosa, who finished 14th in 2010 with Pedro Cunha. The two Pedros – Salgado and Cunha – are expected to play together this season.

Besides USA's Dalhausser/Rogers, other 2010 gold-medal men's teams who will be competing in 2011 are two-time event winners Wu/Xu of China and Casey Jennings/Kevin Wong of the United States. Harley and Salgado had one win last year but will be with different partners this year.

USA's Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are back together on the women's World Tour, where they share top billing with two other pairs, including their fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. May-Treanor/Walsh, who won gold at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, have resumed their partnership after Walsh sat out the majority of the last two seasons after having children. May-Treanor missed the 2009 campaign with an Achilles tendon injury and played much of last year's World Tour with Nicole Branagh. Together, May-Treanor/Walsh have won 99 career tournaments, including 35 on the World Tour.

Kessy/Ross won three event gold medals in 2009 including the FIVB Swatch World Championships, and finished third for the season. Last year, the Americans captured two more gold medals and finished fourth overall.

The third top pairing heading into the 2011 campaign are Brazil's reigning World Tour champions Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca – the all-time FIVB career gold-medal winners for women with 36. In 2010, Juliana/Larissa combined to claim seven gold medals, having previously earned the season title in 2009 with an FIVB-record eight gold medals. Juliana/Larissa have topped the pile in five out of the last six years.

Other 2010 gold-medal teams besides Brazil's Juliana/Larissa and USA's Kessy/Ross competing this year are China's Chen Xu/Xi Zhang (three gold medals in 2010) and Brazil's Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes (one). USA's Branagh, who won one event last year with Walsh, will be competing with Angie Akers, who was seventh on the 2010 tour with Tyra Turner, absent this year as she is pregnant with her first child.

Countries with teams officially entered in the Brasilia double-gender event are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chile, Czech Republic, Columbia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.