Latvia and Spain battle for European crown, Italy and Poland fight for bronze
2013 CEV A1 Beach Volleyball European Championship Final presented by checkrobin.com
Klagenfurt, Austria, August 4, 2013. With heavyweights Germany, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland all out of the top four in the men’s tournament, Spain will be the sole country to finish this European Championship with two medals on their account – on Saturday Liliana/Baquerizo had won silver in the women’s competition – after 2004 Olympic silver medallist Pablo Herrera – who is also a 2005 European champion – and partner Adrian Gavira advanced to the final game edging Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo in three close sets (25-23, 19-21, and 15-13). Their opponent will be Latvia’s Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs who cruised to a come-from-behind victory to beat Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel (15-21, 21-13, and 15-8). Smedins and Samoilovs have already improved on their country’s best performance at the European Championship which dates back to three years ago as Janis and former partner Martins Plavins had won bronze in Berlin.
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Latvia’s first-seeded Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs got the right to play for gold in Klagenfurt as they beat Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel in three sets (15-21, 21-13, and 15-8) in the first semi-final. The two guys from Poland had made the semis with an impeccable record of five wins in as many matches since the start of their campaign here on the shores of the Wörthersee and wanted to take revenge for the 0:2 defeat they had suffered to their Latvian opponents this past June in The Hague. Thousands of fans had already filled up the stands of the centre court early on Sunday morning for the last act of the Championship and they equally supported Latvia and Poland as these nations were trying to make the gold medal match for the first time in history. The start of the game did see a series of side-outs before Fijalek and Prudel broke away claiming a 4-point lead (17:13) that was enough to bring it home for the provisional 1:0 (21-15). Samoilovs and Smedins – by far the most consistent European pair this season – found their way into the game playing their best in the second set where they pulled out a terrific 11:2 run to move the score from 8:6 to 17:8 and practically close the door to any possible comeback by their opponents. Smedins was absolutely outstanding in defence and also killed some terrific spikes to finish it off at 21-13 and call for the tie-break. The two guys from Riga changed pace halfway through the third set (from 8:6 the score went straight to 12:7) and they did not look back anymore to cash a well-deserved win (15-8). After missing out on a spot among the top four at the World Championship in Stare Jablonki this past month, Smedins and Samoilovs will fight for European gold.
“I want to thank the fans because they always create a great and unique ambiance here in Klagenfurt. Many thanks also to the DJ, the best in the world, for he also helps us deliver a great show” Samoilovs said. With this victory the multi-lingual Latvian player – nicknamed the “Lion” – who speaks fluent Latvian, Russian, English, and Spanish already cashed his first European medal while partner Janis Smedins will try to improve on the bronze he won three years ago in Berlin together with Martins Plavins. “A big applause shall be deserved to my partner Janis” Samoilovs added, “for he is the best Beach Volleyball player in the world. He has won six international medals so far and is the best partner anyone may ask for”. On the other side of the net, Fijalek and Prudel were quite understandably disappointed for missing on this chance to vie for gold but will play for bronze later in the afternoon for what would be Poland’s first European medal in the 20-year long history of the Championship.
Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira crossed once again their ways with Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo after besting Italy’s up-and-coming duo already last week in Long Beach. The semi-final game was a real remake of what these pairs had done in California for 2004 Olympic silver medallist Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira needed once more three close sets (25-23, 19-21, and 15-13) to get the right to play for gold. Still Lupo and Nicolai have got something to regret as they could not exploit five set balls – three in a row – to claim a 1:0 lead before their opponents cashed their second opportunity to set the pace of the game. It was world-class Beach Volleyball what thousands of fans got to see on Sunday morning in Klagenfurt with 22-year old Daniele Lupo still showing ups and downs in the consistency of his play.
The young guys who last year had caused a sensation at the London Olympics by beating USA Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser eventually drew level after claiming a very close second set (21-19) but they trailed right from the start of the tie-break (2:4, 4:8) as they still lacked consistency in their performance. They nevertheless completed their comeback at 12 all forcing their opponents to call a time-out and that was the right move for the 2009 European bronze medallists who eventually brought it home at 15-13.