Russian ladies win Continental Cup final to claim Olympic berth
CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup
Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2012. The home heroines of Russia accomplished their mission as they cruised past their opponents from the Netherlands with a 3:1 to win the final stage of the CEV Continental Cup at “Poklonnaya Gora” and qualify a duo for the 2012 London Olympics.
That final was somehow a carbon copy of Saturday’s semifinal against Switzerland for the home side as Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova opened the series by winning the first set against Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel but eventually lost that match at the tie-break. Good help for the Russian quest was provided by Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova who downed in straight sets (21-14, 21-16) the 2011 U23 European champions Michelle Stiekema and Riemke Braakman.
Ukolova and Khomyakova re-started their campaign in the afternoon cheered on by many fans from the stands of the centre court set up in the splendid scenario of “Victory Park” as they played the best orange duo Meppelink/van Gestel. After clearly losing the first set (15-21), Evgenia and Katya were able to find back their best play to sweep the next two sets (21-19, 15-12) and claim the provisional 2:1 lead for Russia. By this moment, Russia was only one step away from fulfilling its Olympic dream and that was eventually turned into reality as Vasina and Vozakova edged their next opponents, Stiekema/Braakman, in straight sets (21-17, 21-12) to fire up the Russian party.
The pair participating in the Olympic tournament will be announced by the local NOC in the next couple of weeks but finally Russia will be represented in the women’s tournament there in London after Natalya Uryadova and Alexandra Shiryaeva had finished nineteenth four years ago in Beijing. “We just can’t express our emotions! It was a very long way but without the support of our fans, friends and relatives this would not have been possible” said the Russian heroines. “Our dream has come true: we’ll participate in the Olympics! However, we still have our chances to qualify also a second team, so we have to stay fully concentrated as next week, once again here in Moscow, a second berth will be at stake. We’ll celebrate a bit tonight but immediately start working hard again to get ready for the next tournament”.
In the bronze medal match Switzerland’s pairs Muriel Graessli/Tanja Goricanec and Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré beat Italy 3:1 thereby securing their pass for the FIVB World Olympic Qualification Tournament coming up next week at “Vodniy Stadium” in Moscow, where the Oranjes will also have their last chance to qualify for the Olympics after their best pair, 2012 European champions Sanne Keizer and Marleen van Iersel, did so via the Olympic ranking.
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Picture: the podium of the CEV Continental Cup Final in Moscow with Russia's head coach Marco Solustri standing in front of his players who successfully completed their Olympic quest on home soil