2018-07-19 14:23:00 CET
Mixed fortunes, teams on the rise and hope for the future…
Give Brazilians time
For the first time in Gstaad history – stretching back to the first tournament in 2000 – no Brazilian team reached either the men’s or women’s podium.
All the pre-tournament talk was of the first five-star appearances of a host of new Brazilian men’s teams, one of which includes Alison Cerutti and Andre Loyola. Despite their glowing credentials, the 2016 Olympic champ and the 2018 World champ were sent packing in the pool play, where they lost twice – including a shock defeat to Italian qualifiers Andreatta/Abbiati.
Evandro Gonçalves and Vitor Felipe came into the tournament off the back of three top-five finishes, including a silver in Warsaw, but struggled in Switzerland, also losing both pool play matches. The best finishers were Pedro Solberg and Bruno Oscar Schmidt in ninth.
It’s clear that this is a season of transition for the South American powerhouses. Good players do not become bad overnight. Beach volleyball is all about finding the right chemistry. Pedro Solberg has explained there’s no harm in being a serial partner-swapper. The depth of quality in Brazil is not to be underestimated and only a fool would write them off. All eyes will be on them in Vienna. Underestimate them at your peril.
Swiss wait goes on
Every season the anticipation and expectation of a home team medal for Swiss success in Gstaad rises. Not since 2012 has a team from Switzerland kept a cowbell in the country when Nadine Zumkehr and Simone Kuhn won the women’s bronze. On the men’s side you have to go back even further, to 2004, when Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel won gold.
While the home fans might have been disappointed, there were circumstances out their control. An injury ruled out Marco Krattiger before tournament even began, while a serious back problem put paid to Joana Heidrich's chances in the elimination stages.
Sometimes you have to announce bad news...😏Unfortunately our season as #teamjoanouk is over. The back problems of @joanaheidrich got worse and she needs a little surgery to be able to play in full strength again 😔 We'll go through this with the amazing team we have 🙏🏼Jo has my full support and I'm already looking forward to get back on court together. I still need to figure out what I will do during the rest of the season. For the European Champs this week I will play with my younger sister @zoe.vergedepre . Let's see if that lastname fits 2x on the score board🤔
3,241 Likes, 39 Comments - Anouk Vergé-Dépré (@anoukvergedepre) on Instagram: "Sometimes you have to announce bad news...😏Unfortunately our season as #teamjoanouk is over. The..."
But there is no reason to think that a Swiss cowbell soon will not be staying in Gstaad. The talent is there, and what’s important to note is that time is on their side. The average age of the top two Swiss teams in both genders (Heidrich/Vergé-Dépré, Hüberli/Betschart, Beeler/Krattiger and Heidrich/Gerson) is under 25. With the added support of the federation and with natural improvement expected as begin to reach their peak, the future is certainly bright for Swiss volleyball. The wait for a medal in Gstaad will end sooner rather than later.
We ❤️ these girls! 🇯🇵 Congratulations @IshiiMurakami - through to the #GstaadMajor last 16! https://t.co/ZHlh08WnYM
Japanese hope for Tokyo
One story that captured the imagination during the tournament was the performance of the two women’s qualifiers from Japan who reached the elimination stage.
Megumi Murakami and Miki Ishii in particular caught the eye on their way to a fifth place finish, beating Germany’s Victoria Bieneck and Isabelle Schneider in the Last 16. The girls then ran eventual silver medalists Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude before exiting the tournament.
With the Tokyo Olympics just two years away, their performance, together with that of Akiko Hasegawa and Azusa Futami, gives hope that the host nation can compete with the best when beach volleyball arrives in 2020. And can you imagine the hype if either of these teams succeeded on home sand. With Sayaka Mizoe/Suzuka Hashimoto also in the medals this season, 2018 has already represented a great start to what promises to be an exciting two years for Japanese beach volleyball.
Canadian girls getting better
You only have to look at the current women’s world rankings to see how good the Canadians are right now. The North American nation often plays second fiddle to their larger near neighbors south of the border, but both Canadian teams are laying down the gauntlet to plethora of new USA tandems right now.
2,004 Likes, 35 Comments - Melissa Humana-Paredes (@melissahumanaparedes) on Instagram: "You guys, the koala is BACK!! 🤩😩🐨 and this time it dons a cowbell #gstaadmajor #beachmajorseries"
Commonwealth Games champions Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan had, by their own admission, struggled in recent events with a string of ninth place finishes, yet bounced back to their best to take a golden cowbell in Gstaad. The pair were joined on the podium by fellow Canadians Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson who are enjoying a spectacular run of form.
Brandie in particular is showing all the signs of a world class blocker – nobody blocked more balls in Gstaad than the Swiss-born 26-year-old – and with defensive dynamo Bansley behind her, the team now seem to be clicking. The form speaks for itself. Last season, the pair played eight tournaments but their best position was two fifth-places. Fast forward 12 months and the duo are on a hot streak, winning gold in Warsaw, silver in Ostrava and bronze in Itapema and now in Gstaad – all in the last five tournaments.
What chance another medal in Vienna for these two teams? The smart money will definitely be on them right now.
Undisputed stars of the future
At 21 and 22 years old, Anders Mol and Christian Sørum look to have the beach volleyball world at their feet. The fearless beach volleyball Vikings have quietly but impressively risen up the world rankings over the past year with a number of fifth place finishes. The youngsters had already shown they can mix it with the big boys before they won their first World Tour medal together in Itapema in May, but in Gstaad they announced themselves to the world stage with a brilliant week of beach volleyball.
1,867 Likes, 126 Comments - Beach Volley Vikings (@beachvolleyvikings) on Instagram: "History has been written 📚 1st 🥇 for Norway in 20 years #onlythebeginning #cowbells"
The Norwegians won all six of their matches in the mountains, a run that saw them beat Plavins/Tocs, Bruno/Pedro and Herrera/Gavira. The pair made their gold medal match win over the Spaniards look so easy that it is hard not to think this team have a massive chance of being household names in the sport for many years to come.
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