Historical day for Mexico at smart Major Hamburg

Hamburg, Germany, June 10, 2015 - For the first-time in the Olympic history, Mexico will be represented by both a beach volleyball and volleyball team in the Summer Games after Juan Virgen and Lombardo Ontiveros won a pair of matches here Friday over teams from Brazil and Latvia to move into the top 15 pairs on the Rio provisional ranking list ahead of a German tandem.

Seeded 15th in the last qualifying event on the FIVB World Tour for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Virgen and Ontiveros posted wins Friday over 19th-seeded Alvaro Filho/Vitor Felipe of Brazil 2-0 (21-9, 21-16) in 38 minutes and 26th-seeded qualifiers Martins Plavins/Haralds Regza of Latvia 2-0 (21-18, 21-19) in 34 minutes.

With the two wins, the Mexicans improved their Rio Olympic qualifying total to 4,670 points for their best 12 finishes at FIVB World Tour stops or continental championships since the start of the process. The reigning PanAmerican champions, Virgen and Ontiveros had to win both matches Friday to secure their “beach chairs” on Copacabana as the Mexicans were competing with two German pairs for the final spot from the international circuit for Rio.

While Virgen and Ontiveros clinched Mexico’s beach volleyball ticket to Rio on foreign sand, the country’s volleyball team secured its 2016 Olympic berth June 5 at the men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Mexico City at Gimnasio Olimpico Juan de la Barrera.

Needing to defeat the Brazilians to keep their hopes alive, the all-German match between 16th-seeded Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen and eighth-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik entered into the equation with the loser ousted from the competition without a chance to improve their Rio point total.

Bockermann and Fluggen defeated their compatriots 2-0 (21-17, 21-18) in 48 minutes to end Erdmann and Matysik’s bid for a Rio berth from the 15 allocated for FIVB World Tour participants. With the door open, Virgen and Ontiveros completed their task to reach Rio with the win over the Latvians.

“It has been a long and stressful journey,” said the 32-year old Ontiveros.  “To join our indoor team in Rio is significant for the development of volleyball and beach volleyball in our country. I am so thankful right now.  It is hard to describe my emotions right now. Despite the stress of the last month, it has been a wonderful experience to finally reach the ultimate goal in playing in the Olympics for Mexico.”

While dropping out of the FIVB 15 for the Rio Olympics where Brazilians were excluded due to winning the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships along with being the host country for the Summer Games, Erdmann and Matysik still have an opportunity to secure a spot for Germany via the Continental Cup competition starting with the European event from June 22-26 in Stavanger, Norway.

If Germany fails to win the Stavanger event, but place second or third in the competition, the European country will get a second opportunity for their seats on the Copacabana beach at the FIVB Continental Cup Finals July 6-10 in Sochi, Russia, where the final two spots for the Copacabana quadrennial will be determined.

With their advancement to the quarterfinals on Saturday, Virgen and Ontiveros will challenge top-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil in an “elite eight” match with the winner securing a spot in Sunday’s final four matches. The two teams have played twice on the FIVB World Tour with the Mexicans winning a 2014 match in Switzerland and the Brazilians posting a pool victory at the Rio Grand Slam in mid-March on Copacabana where the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be contested August 6-18.

Other quarterfinal matches have sixth-seeded Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson challenging third-seeded Nick Lucena/Phil Dalhausser in an all-American affair while fourth-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands meets ninth-seeded Pablo Herrera/Adrian Gavira of Spain and 12th-seeded Konstantin Semenov/Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia playing Bockermann/Fluggen.

Like the Mexicans, Bockermann and Fluggen had to win twice on Friday to reach the quarterfinals as the Germans ended play on the day that they booked a spot for Germany on Copacabana with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) win in 42 minutes over 18th-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland.

The Smart Major Hamburg continues on Saturday with women’s play where the semifinal and medal matches will be contested as the winning pair will split the $57,000 first-place prize. The men’s semifinal and medal matches will be played Sunday at the Am Rothenbaum stadium.


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