Antalya, Turkey, May 14, 2016 - Taru Lahti and Riikka Lehtonen made history for Finland here Saturday mid-day by becoming the first women’s or men’s team to win a Beach Volleyball medal on the FIVB World Tour by upsetting a team from Argentina in the second of two semi-finals on the BeachPark center court at the US$150,000 Antalya Open.
Seeded 15th in the second annual event, Lahti and Lehtonen posted a 2-0 (25-23, 21-14) win in 43 minutes over sixth-seeded Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina to advance to the gold medal match where the Fins will challenge top-seeded Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany for the $11,000 first-place prize.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst advanced to their seventh FIVB World Tour gold medal match by defeating seventh-seeded compatriots Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler 2-0 (24-22, 21-16) in 38-minutes. It was the first meeting between the two teams on the international circuit since May 2014 when Holtwick and Semmler defeated their German rivals in the semi-finals at the Czech Republic Open in Prague.
Diving for Mikasa is Laura Ludwig of Germany
GERMANS LEAD 3-1
The gold medal meeting will be the fifth confrontation between the two teams on the FIVB World Tour with Ludwig and Walkenhorst holding a 3-1 edge after defeating the Fins in a three-set March 9 pool play match at the Rio Grand Slam.
“What an unbelievable feeling to be Finland’s first-ever medal winner on the world tour,” said the 36-year old Lehtonen after her team avenged a setback to the Argentineans at last October’s inaugural Antalya Open in a quarter-final match. “We fought hard against a very good team that was also seeking their first gold medal. We just kept working hard and I feel that we had a very good tactic for the match. My young partner played very well in a pressure-packed situation.”
Lahti, who is 23, and Lehtonen reached their first semi-final last September in Russia where they did not win a set against two teams from Switzerland in the Sochi “final four” matches. Saturday’s appearance in the Antalya semi-final was different for the Fins as they withstood three set points in the opening set to win. In the second set, Lahti and Lehtonen broke from 10-8 lead to score 11 of the last 17 points in the match.
“We played a little tired last week in Sochi where we finished 17th,” said Lehtonen, who is playing in her 27th FIVB World Tour event with Lahti. “We got to Antalya and got some rest along with having some good practice sessions with our coach. We have now played seven matches this week, so we are in a good place. Now, we play in the biggest match of our career against one of the world’s best teams. What a thrill and we are excited to play for gold.”
With the semi-final win, Lahti and Lehtonen also improved their point total for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the pair has now compiled 3,560 points for their best 12 finishes during the qualifying period that starting in April 2015. The Fins are No. 18 with the top 15 pairs from the FIVB World Tour earning berths. Lahti and Lehtonen trail No.15 Wang/Yue of China by 530 points with three FIVB qualifying events left along with European championships at the start of June in Switzerland.
The Antalya Open also features men’s competition where three rounds of elimination bracket are being played Saturday. The men’s “final four” matches will be Sunday.