Antalya, Turkey, May 15, 22016015 - After being disappointed in a three-set semi-final setback to eventual Antalya Open winners Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia, Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel bounced back here Sunday afternoon to claim the bronze medal in the FIVB World Tour event on the BeachPark center court.
With their 2-0 (21-14, 21-13) win in 32 minutes over 25th-seeded qualifiers Georgios Kotsilianos and Nikos Zoupanis of Greece, the sixth-seeded Fijalek and Prudel shared $6,000 in winning their first medal this season and 10th career FIVB podium placement together as the Antalya Open was their 77th world tour appearance since forming their partnership in 2008.
GOLD MEDAL FORFEIT
The Antalya Open men’s gold medal match was not played Sunday as a left knee injury for Lars Fluggen forced him and his German partner Markus Bockermann to forfeit his title contest to the fourth-seeded Samoilovs and Smedins, who shared the $11,000 first-place prize. Fluggen, who had meniscus surgery five weeks ago, and Bockermann split $8,000 for placing second as the ninth-seeds with the Poles netting $6,000 for the bronze medal finish.
Antalya Open podium (left to right) featured Fluggen, Bockermann, Smedins, Samoilovs, Fijalek and Prudel.
“Obviously, we are very disappointed about not making the finals,” said the 30-year old Prudel as he and Fijalek dropped a 2-1 (18-21, 25-23, 15-13) semi-final match to Samoilovs and Smedins. “But, we are still happy to win our first medal this season. We played very well against the Greeks and now we look forward to taking next week off in preparation for the next three events.”
After winning one of three title matches during the 2014 FIVB World Tour campaign for the best-ever single-season performance by a Polish Beach Volleyball team on the international circuit, Fijalek and Prudel claimed only one podium placement in nine events last season. This year, the pair has two semi-final appearances with a fourth-place finish two months ago at the Rio Grand Slam on Copacabana.
“This week has been good preparation for us as we look forward to the final two FIVB qualifying events for the Olympics in Russia (Moscow) and Germany (Hamburg) along with the European Championships in Switzerland (Biel/Bienne),” said Prudel. “The Olympics is still three months away, so we need to continue to improve our game.”
NOW NO. 10
With the bronze medal win Sunday, Fijalek and Prudel moved into the No. 10 spot on the qualifying list for the Rio Summer Games with the top 15 pairs with a maximum of two teams per country earning a spot in the Copacabana quadrennial to be played August 6-18.
Fijalek and Prudel have now amassed 4,830 points for their best 12 finishes during the qualifying period. Compatriots Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak started the week as No. 10 on the provisional Rio list, but dropped a spot after placing ninth in the Antalya Open after not bettering their worst 12th. The provisional ranking list does not include Brazilians as the South American nation secured their two spots by winning the 2015 FIVB World Championships last July in The Hague along with being the host country.
Despite finishing fourth and collecting $4,500 for their Antalya Open finish, Kotsilianos and Zoupanis were the first-ever Greek men’s team to reach a FIVB World Tour “final four” since the start of play in 1987. “We are disappointed about not playing better today,” said Kotsilianos. “But, reaching the semi-finals is historic for our country and we look forward to bettering this placement in the future.”
Georgios Kotsilianos (left) and Nikos Zoupanis - first Greek men's team in FIVB Beach Volleyball "final four"
NO. 13 MEN'S STOP
The US$150,000 Antalya Open was 13th of 23 men’s events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar. After the remaining FIVB Rio qualifying events in the United States, Russia and Germany, the international circuit stages events in Poland (Olsztyn, June 14-19), Croatia (Porec, June 28-July 3), Switzerland (Gstaad, July 5-10) and Austria (Klagenfurt, July 26-31) before halting for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.