Austria secure second Olympic quota place, Belgium & Russia have one last shot
2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup - Final
Stavanger, Norway, June 26, 2016. Two Austrian men’s teams will travel to Rio de Janeiro later this summer and be among the 24 vying for immortal glory on the iconic beach of Copacabana that will be hosting the Beach Volleyball competition of the 2016 Olympics. On Sunday afternoon Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl won the ‘Golden Match’ with Belgium that capped off five days of exciting competition at the 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Final in Stavanger to secure a second quota place for their country to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Huber and Seidl stormed to a 21-19, 21-17 victory over Belgium’s sensation Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle who right by the finish line suffered their first loss since they travelled to Norway’s Beach Volleyball capital earlier this week. Koekelkoren and van Walle will have one last shot at the fulfilment of their Olympic dream in less than two weeks when contesting the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification that is due to take place in Sochi, Russia on July 6-10. As for Austria, though the second tandem on the Olympic team is due to be confirmed at a later stage by their NOC/NF, Huber and Seidl are most likely to join the country’s top team Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst on the plane to Rio.
Earlier on Sunday Russia’s tandems regrouped after losing to Austria in the semis to finish the tournament in third place by recording two straight wins in their matchups with Spain. Russia will be trying to qualify a second team for the Rio 2016 Olympics – next to this year’s European silver medallists Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov – when contesting the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification on home turf.
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Belgium and Austria delivery classy fight for ticket to Rio
Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle extended their winning streak at Stavanger to seven straight matches by claiming the first act of the ‘grand finale’ with Austria. However, they were made work hard for it as they fought for three sets before eventually edging Thomas Kunert and Christoph Dressler 21-17, 18-21, 15-12. Koekelkoren and van Walle mastered the game very well in the first set leading by as many as five points at 13-8 and 16-11 and even though their rivals improved the quality of their performance as the match progressed, the ‘Beach Red Dragons’ were in full control through to the end (21-17).
The match was an enjoyable one for the audience in attendance with many long rallies, especially in the second set where Koekelkoren and van Walle trailed early on before levelling the score at 7-all. Kunert and Dressler, however, found the right way to disrupt the game plan of their opponents and deservedly won the second set 21-18 after missing out on another two set balls.
Van Walle and Koekelkoren regrouped and performed to the best of their abilities in the tie-break that followed, playing with much composure and resilience even though they called a time-out at 13-12 as their advantage was cut down to a minimum before they scored two more points to finish it all off at 15-12.
“It did not really matter to us if we had to play the first or second match of this tie,” Koekelkoren commented afterwards. “I was just extremely focussed on this match and on playing the best I could. At some point we realised that our tactics were not working as much as I was hoping and we started arguing with Tom about what to do. In the end we found the right solutions and we are obviously happy with this victory. Now I just hope that Robin [Adriaensen] and Bob [Douwen] will get the job done by winning their match!”
Koekelkoren’s wish was not fulfilled since Austria’s top team in the tournament, Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl, quite comfortably won their clash with Douwen/Adriaensen 21-13, 21-18 to shape up a ‘Golden Match’ in order to determine the eventual winners of the Continental Cup Final and of the much coveted ticket to Rio.
“It feels amazing and I simply cannot find any words to describe my feelings,” Robin Seidl said after he and partner Alexander Huber pulled out a 2-0 victory in the ‘Golden Match’ with Koekelkoren/van Walle. “We have been working and fighting for the achievement of this ultimate goal for four years and we finally made it happen! I really have no words, I am absolutely thrilled and proud that we achieved this goal by sticking together, through the ups and downs we have had, and by staying together as a team,” he added. “This is something one day we will be able to proudly tell our kids and our children’s children.”
The achievement of any athlete’s ultimate dream was at stake on Sunday afternoon when Dries Koekelkoren/Tom van Walle and Alexander Huber/Robin Seidl found their way – one last time – to the iconic centre court set up on the Market Square of Stavanger.
The match soon turned into an uphill climb for the ‘Beach Red Dragons’ as they could lead the way only twice in the opening set – at 1-0 and 2-1. After that they would always have to chase their opponent and could only level the score once at 16-all. Huber and Seidl were delivering the perfect match their coaching staff arguably dreamed of – and so it was, with the Austrians winning the first set 21-19.
The second set was an even more demanding challenge for Koekelkoren and van Walle – Huber and Seidl soon edged ahead 6-3, and at 12-8 they seemed to be en route to securing the much coveted ticket to Rio. However, van Walle and Koekelkoren showed a lot of resilience fighting back to 16-all and prompting an Austrian time-out. Still the Austrians succeeded in almost everything they attempted to produce and their well-deserved victory followed suit at 21-17.
This success is especially important for Huber, who four years ago played a major role in securing an Olympic quota place for Austria at the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification in Moscow, but ultimately Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst were those chosen to use this spot and play at Horse Guards Parade in London.
Spain’s Olympic dream ends after dropping two matches to Russia
On a rainy Sunday morning Russia and Spain opened the programme of the last competition day in Stavanger vying for third place and trying to secure a spot in the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification which is due to take place from July 6 to 10 in Sochi, Russia and where the last two tickets to Rio 2016 will be at stake.
After their pairs were mixed up on Saturday night for the ‘Golden Match’ with Austria in an attempt to surprise the opponent which did not produce the results the coaching staff was arguably hoping for, Russia’s Nikita Liamin and Dmitry Barsouk were back in the business together and after overcoming a slow start to their match with Spain’s no. 1 team Francisco Alfredo Marco/Christian Garcia – they indeed trailed for most of the opening set – they rallied to a 26-24, 21-15 victory in 38 minutes. This result provided Russia with an edge going into the second clash of the day featuring 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold medallists Artem Yarzutkin/Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Spain’s no. 2 tandem Francisco Tomas/Cesar Menendez.
Once this second matchup came to a close, it became clear that Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira will be the only men’s team from Spain competing at the Rio 2016 Olympics later this summer since Tomas/Menendez clearly lost in two sets (21-18, 21-15) their match with Yarzutkin/Stoyanovskiy. The gold medal winners from the 2013 U18 European Championship – still only 20 and 19 years old, respectively – set the tempo of the game from the beginning of the opening set and even though their Spanish opponents closed in within only one point at 17-16, the 205 cm towering Stoyanovskiy and partner Yarzutkin scored three points in a row to pave the way towards a 21-18 set win.
Tomas and Menendez put on a fight in the second set but were able to keep the score close only in its early stages, before the Russians broke away and ultimately sealed their 2-0 win.
In less than two weeks Russia will be trying to use the home-court advantage in Sochi to secure a second quota place to the Rio 2016 Olympics – 2016 European silver medallists Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov have already made sure they will participate at the Copacabana quadrennial via the ranking points they collected competing on the FIVB World Tour.