Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, June 3, 2016 - With the start of the final FIVB World Tour qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games less than a week away, Germans Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler are seeking “help” here Saturday before opening play in the US$800,000 Hamburg Major this coming Tuesday.
Playing in the 2016 European Championships, Holtwick and Semmler have advanced to the quarter-finals after two elimination wins Friday over pairs from Greece and Italy. Now, the German pair can “help” cut into the 330-point deficit they face in trying to catch compatriots Karla Borger and Britta Buthe for the European country’s No. 2 spot for the Copacabana quadrennial to be played August 6-18.
A quarter-final win over Borger and Buthe Saturday will cut 50 points off the lead. A gold medal finish could decrease the deficit by another 150 points with a silver medal placement slicing 100 points and a bronze medal reducing margin by 50 as a podium placement in the European Championships would “help” ease what Holtwick and Semmler will need in Hamburg to overtake their German rivals for an Olympic berth in the Rio Summer Games.
With both German teams needing quarter-finals finishes to improve their Rio qualifying totals, Borger and Buthe enter play Saturday with 5,100 points for their best 12 finishes on the FIVB World Tour since the start of the process in April 2015 in China. Holtwick and Semmler have compiled 4,770 Rio ranking points.
Germany's Karla Borger
Holtwick and Semmler hold a 4-2 edge with Borger and Buthe in matches played on the FIVB World Tour as the two German pairs will be meeting each other for the first-time on the European Tour. However, Borger and Buthe have won the last two FIVB matches with Holtwick and Semmler with both contests played last season in Croatia and Japan.
It should be noted that the Japanese Grand Slam win last July 24 came with a cost for Borger, as she hurt her back against Holtwick and Semmler that forced her to forfeit the next match in Yokohama . The injury still hampered Borger at last year’s European Championships in Austria where she forfeit two more matches that led her to have back surgery.
While the two Germans are competing for their country’s second Olympic berth with Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst the No. 1 pair, Ekaterina Birlova and Evgeniya Ukolova of Russia are still in position to improve their Rio qualifying total by also winning Friday over a team from Sweden to advance to the quarter-finals of European Championships for the second-straight season.
However, the Russians need to win twice Saturday along with capturing the gold medal Sunday to cut into the 150-point deficit Birlova and Ukolova (3,950 Rio points) face in catching Ana Gallay and Georgina Klug of Argentina (4,100) for the 15th and final spot allocated for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games from the FIVB World Tour.
Provisional Olympic Ranking Table - Women
With only a team’s best finish from a continental championships being counted among a pair’s best 12 finishes, Birlova and Ukolova placed second in the 2015 European finals after losing the gold medal match to Ludwig and Walkenhorst. The Russians meet Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany in the quarter-finals Saturday with the winner playing either Ludwig/Walkenhorst or Laura Longuet/Alexandra Jupiter of France in the semi-finals.
The winner of the Holtwick/Semmler versus Borger/Buthe match will meet either Marketa Slukova/Barbora Hermannova of the Czech Republic or Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands in the other semi-final match. The medal matches for the 2016 European Championships will be played Sunday.
The Hamburg Major, which will be played at the Am Rothenbaum stadium, starts Tuesday (June 7) with qualifying where eight men’s and eight women’s teams will advance to Main Draws where pool play will be featured Wednesday and Thursday. The women’s semi-finals and medal matches will be June 11 and the men’s “final four” contests June 12.