2015-07-07 22:55:00 CET
Following completion of the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship on July 5, the quest for Olympic qualifying points resumes faster than an ace serve, with the season's third Swatch Major Series stop, Gstaad, Switzerland on July 7–12. Women's matches have just begun, and the new world titleholders – both men and women –have come to the scenic mountain village to prove themselves all over.
With a record 16 consecutive years on the FIVB World Tour calendar, Gstaad is a classic destination for beach volleyball. And the new women's world champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas of Brazil, as well as the 2015 world titleholders on the men's side, fellow Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt, wouldn't miss the opportunity to play as the new Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series makes its Swiss debut. Launched this year, the Swatch Major Series is a historic expansion of the FIVB World Tour, and on the line in addition to glory are Olympic qualifying points toward the Rio Games and a total purse of US$800,000.
The competition at the renowned Alpine resort got started on Tuesday, July 7, with Qualification for women, where 30 teams from 18 countries took the sand. (That's 2,500 tons of sand at the purpose-built venue, including side courts and the monumental Center Court –which, with 6,000 seats, is the largest court of any Swatch Major Series stop this year.)
In a demonstration of just how competitive the season's World Tour has been, even Brazil's Taiana Lima and Fernanda Alves, who earned World Championship silver on July 5, had to play a Qualification match on Tuesday just to get into the Gstaad Major, defeating Heather McGuire and Amanda Dowdy of the USA.
On Wednesday, the women will kick off Pool play, where Agatha/Barbara and Taiana/Fernanda will be joined not only by more Brazilian all-stars, like Porec Major winners Larissa França and Talita Antunes, and Stavanger Major victors and World Championship bronze medalists Juliana Felisberta and Maria Antonelli, but also standouts from around the world, including home favorites from Switzerland and – in their highly anticipated Swatch Major Series debut – America's Kerri Walsh and April Ross.
Wednesday will additionally see Qualification for the men, including the fourth-place team from Worlds, Americans Nick Lucena and Theodore Brunner. Big names as the week continues will include the rest of the World Championship Semifinalists: Alison and Bruno Schmidt; World bronze medalists and Stavanger Major winners Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg of Brazil; and World silver medalists and Porec Major winners Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst of the Netherlands.
Gstaad marks the last chance for all the athletes to prove their mettle in the Swatch Major Series this season, as the World Tour accelerates toward the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, USA, September 29–October 4, 2015.