Russia and Latvia to fight for European Games gold, Swiss and Czech tandems vie for bronze
2015 European Games
Baku, Azerbaijan, June 21, 2015. Dmitry Barsouk and Martins Plavins are definitely the most decorated players competing at the Baku 2015 European Games and on Sunday night they will be trying to add yet another accolade to their resume after sailing through their respective semis to get the right to play for the title of first ever European Games champions. Barsouk and partner Yaroslav Koshkarev stamped a 21-18, 29-27 win in their semi-final with Switzerland’s Gabriel Kissling and Alexei Strasser whilst Plavins and Haralds Regza secured another international medal for Latvia by taking the stage in their matchup with Premysl Kubala and Jan Hadrava of the Czech Republic (21-14, 21-17).
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Latvians stun Czechs on their way to gold
Martins Plavins and his young partner Haralds Regza needed only 35 minutes to claim their spot in the ‘grand finale’ of the Baku 2015 European Games men’s Beach Volleyball competition. They are playing in Baku their first tournament together and their partnership was set up only and exclusively for the Games since Plavins will then return to compete with Hermans Egleskalns for the remainder of the season. They said they are taking it one game at a time but things have been working really well for the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Plavins and his young partner.
They claimed an early three-point lead in their semi-final with Premysl Kubala and Jan Hadrava and even though the Czechs fought hard to get closer, the Latvians controlled the first set from start to end (21-14). The second stanza of this match started in a promising way for the 41-year old Kubala and his partner Hadrava who got to the front by three but the Latvians responded by scoring as many as seven consecutive points; at this stage the fate of the match was determined with a visibly tired Kubala having to realise his chances to go for gold had vanished in thin air.
“Our tactics was to take it one rally at a time and to serve a lot on Kubala so he would get tired and in the end this was the right move,” Plavins said. “So far we are very happy,” the Latvian star continued. “We really had the right weather conditions with us today. I was asking for this slightly windy conditions because I knew I could cope well with this.”
As far as his partnership with the 2011 U20 European silver medallist Haralds Regza is concerned, Plavins said: “Sometimes he thinks too much on the court. You have to save your energy and don’t go for full power if you don’t need to. However, this is all about experience and this only comes with the time and as you mature. But for today I’m really happy with our performance and with some really good blocks by Haralds.”
Barsouk and Koshkarev shatter Swiss dreams of second Beach Volleyball gold
Russia’s Dmitry Barsouk and Yaroslav Koshkarev were not among the top favourites going into this tournament as physically they have gone through ups and downs in recent times but they have grown throughout the competition and now they got the right to go for gold and the title of first ever European Games champions.
The first set of their semi-final with Switzerland’s Gabriel Kissling and Alexei Strasser was a close affair which was eventually decided by two consecutive mistakes made by Strasser which helped Barsouk and Koshkarev seal the final 21-18. Kissling and Strasser were trying to emulate their countrywomen Nicole Eiholzer and Nina Betschart who had won gold in the women’s competition on Saturday night and the second set started in the best way for the tandem from the alpine country. Strasser made amends for his mistakes from the previous set by scoring a series of monster blocks (4:0, 7:3) but suddenly the Swiss guys lost grip and had to ask for a time-out as their lead was reduced down to only one point (14:13). The final stages of the second set were more than just dramatic with Barsouk/Koshkarev needing as many as five match balls – and to survive to four set balls for their opponents – before starting the party (29-27) following two consecutive blocks stamped by Barsouk.
It’s a comeback to the international elite for the 35-year old Barsouk, a silver medallist from the 2007 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Gstaad, Switzerland. Barsouk – whose wife Anastasia, née Vasina, is a 2012 Olympian for Russia – and Koshkarev had to cope with difficult weather conditions and especially with the heat that is ruling in Baku these days.
“We are of course happy that we could win under this tough conditions,” Koshkarev said. “The sand was extremely hot and deep and the sun was just crazy. We were totally exhausted after the game. One more set would have killed us. We have played many games with three sets and that is because of the weather and the fact that there are many good teams here.” Moving on to the tactical approach, Koshkarev said: “We wanted to serve on Kissling in order to control Strasser’s performance at the net and in the second set we had some good serves and blocks that helped us to win.”
As for the gold medal match with their neighbours from Latvia, Koshkarev said: “We will try to do our best tonight. We know that Plavins is a very experienced player and that he will not give us an easy time.”