Gstaad, Switzerland, July 9, 2016 - Four of the premiere women's teams on the FIVB World Tour featuring eight of the most experience Beach Volleyball players on the planet will be on display on the center court in this Swiss Alps village where the "final four" matches at the US$800,000 Gstaad Major will be contested.
The average Beach Volleyball experience for the eight participants in the “final four” is 12 seasons with the average age being 31. The four teams have combined to play in 117 FIVB World Tour events and 674 matches with 28 gold medals, 49 podium placements, 59 “final fours” and a 531-143 match record (78.8 percent).
Led by top-seeded and defending champions Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil, the four teams will be competing for the $57,000 first-place prize in the FIVB World Tour event which is the next-to-last event on the international calendar before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
With second-seeded April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings, third-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and seventh-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands competing with the Brazilians for the top spot on the Gstaad Major podium, all four teams will be central figures Saturday evening when the pools are decided for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Talita and Larissa will be the top-seeded pair in the Copacabana Olympics and will be listed first in Rio Pool A. Ross and Walsh Jennings will headline Pool C, Ludwig and Walkenhorst atop Pool D and Meppelink and Van Iersel the first team listed for Pool F. Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas of Brazil, the reigning FIVB world Champions, will be atop Pool B in Rio when play starts August 6 with Canadians Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan the Pool D leader.
Prior to the announcement, the women’s semi-final and medal matches will be played. Talita and Larissa meet Meppelink and Van Iersel in the first match before Ross and Walsh Jennings play Ludwig and Walkenhorst. With the men playing three rounds of elimination Saturday, the women’s matches will be surrounded by their matches. The men complete Gstaad action Sunday with their “final four” matches.
The Brazilians have won six-straight matches from Meppelink and Van Iersel on the FIVB World Tour, including a quarterfinal win last month at the smart Major Hamburg. Ross and Walsh Jennings hold a 4-1 international edge over Ludwig and Walkenhorst, but the Germans defeated the Americans in the smart Major Hamburg semi-finals.
Saturday was a milestone day for the 34-year old Ross as she won her 500th and 501st match on the FIVB World Tour. Only eight women’s players have won that many games on the international circuit, including three that will be playing Saturday - Larissa (740), Talita (683) and Walsh Jennings (627).
Other players on the 500-plus win list are Brazilians Juliana Felisberta (724), Shelda Bede (691) and Adriana Behar (656), American Misty May-Treanor (543) and Australia (504). Ludwig is listed No. 15 on the list with 437 wins).
When asked about her career win milestone, Ross said “It feels like I am experienced. I didn't even know! 500 wins seems like so many, and I've played so many more matches than that. To get 500 wins, is crazy to think about. I had no idea. Going into Rio, it's a nice benchmark to pass as we're preparing. To be the third American woman to do it is crazy. I'm stoked. To be the ninth woman in the world to do it, in all of history is so cool.”