Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 12, 2016 - Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak delivered a gold medal for Poland and avenged a setback in their first-ever FIVB World Tour finale by posting a two-set gold medal win here Sunday at the $800,000 Rio Grand Slam on the Copacabana center court before a capacity crowd by defeating Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg of Brazil.
Nine months earlier on the dockside court in Stavanger at the 2015 Norwegian Major, Evandro and Pedro defeated the Polish pair 2-0 (21-13, 21-14) in a 33-minute gold medal match June 14 to collect the $57,000 first-place prize. Here Sunday, it was Kantor and Losiak’s turn to top the men’s podium at the $800,000 Rio Grand Slam with a 2-0 (21-19, 23-21) finale win over the Brazilians in 45 minutes to split the $57,000 first-place prize.
• Rio Grand Slam website
• Country quota results - Men
• Country quota results - Women
• Qualification - Men
• Qualification - Women
• Main draw - Men
• Main draw - Women
FIRST WIN OVER EVANDRO/PEDRO
Before Sunday’s meeting, Evandro and Pedro had defeated the Poles at FIVB Grand Slams in the United States and Japan to improve their record to 3-0 against Kantor and Losiak. Here Sunday on Copacabana where the Poles have an excellent chance of returning for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it was the Polish’s play that stood out from start to finish.
“The young Polish guys are the most improved team on the tour and played very well today,” said Pedro Salgado, who has been named with Evandro to compete in the Rio 2016 Summer Games with Evandro. “They were more calm this time as compared to Norway when I think they were really nervous in their first finale. They were steady throughout and did not lose their focus.”
Losiak said his team just played “hard. That is all we know to do. Play hard, stay focus and play to the best of our abilities. We are still young and learning with each match. Today, we were more focused against the Brazilians as comparted to Norway. There, we were more nervous and were not very focused. Today was our day to shine.”
YOUTH GOLD MEDALLISTS
Winners of three FIVB youth world championship gold medals, Losiak and Kantor become the second Polish team to win a FIVB World Tour gold medal since the start of the international circuit in 1987. Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel were the first Poles to top a FIVB World Tour podium at The Hague Grand Slam in July 2014.
To advance to the Sunday’s finale, the 3rd-seeded qualifiers Kantor and Losiak defeated 15th-seeded Fijalek and Prudel 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in a 43-minute semi-final match. It was the first-time Kantor and Losiak had defeated their compatriots in five FIVB World Tour matches.
Fijalek and Prudel, the top Polish team on the rankings for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, placed fourth Sunday after losing 2-1 (19-21, 21-19, 20-18) to fifth-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands in the 62-minute bronze medal match. At last year’s Norwegian Major, Fijalek and Prudel lost to Evandro and Pedro in the semi-finals before defeating an Italian for the third-place check.
Sunday’s win was Kantor and Losiak’s ninth-straight victory of the Rio Grand Slam. The Poles had to win qualifying matches Tuesday over pairs from Qatar and Denmark. One of their pool play wins Thursday was a three-set victory over seventh-seeded Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia, the European champions and gold medal winners at the Rio Open (an Olympic test event) last September on Copacabana.
In addition to the Poles’ winnings, Evandro and Pedro split $43,000 as they were playing in their fourth FIVB World Tour gold medal match in 13 events. Brouwer and Meeuwsen, the 2013 FIVB world champions, split $32,000 for the bronze medal with Fijalek and Prudel sharing $24,000 for fourth-place.
With 800 points for winning the Rio Grand Slam, Kantor and Losiak still rank as the top team on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour points list with 2,280. Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are second on the list (1,930 points) with Evandro and Pedro ninth (1,170 points). Dalhausser and Lucena defeated Evandro and Pedro for a FIVB “open” gold medal two weeks ago in Maceio (Brazil) where the Poles placed fifth,
The win Sunday also improved Kantor and Losiak’s standings on the Rio 2016 Olympic provisional ranking list. The Polish pair started the week as No. 13, but leave Copacabana tied for No. 6 with 4,980 points with 20 participations. In addition to accumulating points on the FIVB World Tour or approved continental championships, a team must participate together in a minimum 12 events.
With Brazil already guaranteed two spots in the Olympics by being the host country (Evandro/Pedro) and winning the men’s world championships last June in The Hague (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt), the top 15 teams on the FIVB World Tour (maximum two per country) will net Olympic berths.
Kantor and Losiak were not the only Polish team on the Rio Grand Slam podium Sunday. In the women’s finale after the men’s gold medal match, 12th-seeded Monika Brzostek and Kinga Kolosinska from the European country received the silver medal after losing a 2-0 (21-15, 21-13) decision to eighth-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States. It was the first appearance by a Polish team in a FIVB World Tour finale since the start of women’s play in 1992.
The Rio Grand Slam is the third of five Olympic qualifying events being staged in the South American country with the final two tournaments being next week in Vitoria (March 15-20) and at Fortaleza (April 26-May 1). The Rio Grand Slam is the fourth event on the women’s FIVB World Tour calendar for the 2015-2016 season.