2015-07-11 19:00:00 CEST
Brazilian beach volleyball showed the extent of its power at the Gstaad Major on July 11, as Larissa França and Talita Antunes claimed Brazil’s third Swatch Major Series gold in a row.
While Fernanda Alves and Taiana Lima earned the country’s second consecutive silver in the series. The three-time Olympic gold medalist who had hoped to block the sweep, Kerri Walsh Jennings of the USA, was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury.
Number one seeds Larissa and Talita had been victorious at the opening Swatch Major Series tournament in Poreč, Croatia, but withdrew from Norway’s Stavanger Major – which was won by yet another impressive Brazilian pair – due to injury. Fernanda and Lima, meanwhile, came to Gstaad with the fresh momentum of a silver medal performance at the FIVB World Championships. In front of a packed 6,000-seat stadium in the towering Swiss Alps, Larissa and Talita completed their comeback by dominating their opponents in two sets, 21-13, 21-17. It was the seventh consecutive FIVB World Tour win for Brazil.
In an uncommon turn of events, the bronze medal was awarded to Canada’s Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan without a bronze medal match. Bansley and Pavan have been leading a Canadian surge in the sport all season, including their silver medal at the Poreč Major, and they came into the Gstaad Major in the number-two spot on the FIVB World Ranking. The withdrawal of the USA’s Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross – after Walsh Jennings battled through a re-injured right shoulder in Quarter Finals – averted the need for a bronze battle and clinched the third step of the podium for Bansley and Pavan.
Larissa and Talita, who didn’t lose a single set throughout the series’ closing tournament, were awarded the coveted cowbell trophy that is presented to the victors of major sporting events in Switzerland, as well as 800 valuable Olympic qualifying points and US$57,000.
“I love Gstaad! It brings me many great memories,“ said Larissa, the winningest women’s player ever on the FIVB World Tour. “Every time we play where there are a lot of people cheering, it gives us much more motivation – we’ve made friends here, and thank goodness we played well.”
With the knowledge that only two women’s teams from Brazil’s deep pool of beach volleyball talent will earn a slot on the country’s Olympic team, Talita commented, “We have a lot of good Brazilian teams that want to make it to the Olympic Games in Rio next year, so we play at a high level and have pressure all the time – we have to play well.“
The FIVB World Tour climaxes with the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, USA, September 29–October 4, 2015.