Porec, Croatia, July 2, 2016 - If “underdogs” Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude won the US$800,000 Porec Major here Saturday afternoon in this Croatian coastal resort setting, the German pair would become the 11th women’s team to win a FIVB World Tour gold medal after qualifying for the “money” rounds.
If “favorite” Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan topped the Porec Major podium, the pair that is Rio-bound for the 2016 Olympic Games would become the second Canadian women’s team to win a FIVB World Tour gold medal. Bansley and Pavan would also erase the disappointment of placing second here last year.
After five days of play featuring 88 women’s matches with ideal Beach Volleyball weather conditions, the 19th-seeded Laboureur and Sude completed an “impossible mission” by defeating the fourth-seeded Bansley and Pavan 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) win in 38 minutes. The Germans shared the $57,000 first-place prize while Bansley and Pavan leave Croatian will the second-straight silver medal and split $43,000 for finishing second again in Porec.
Ideal Beach Volleyball weather in Porec attracted a full house for the women's finale Saturday.
“It is a dream come true,” said the 26-year old Laboureur. “We played our best today against two teams headed to the Olympics. We have worked very hard the past several years to position ourselves as one of the best teams in the world. All our hard work and training paid off today as we defeated two very good teams. No one expects a qualifying team to win an event, and today we did.”
Winning their first gold medal in 36 FIVB World Tour events together, Laboureur and Sude defeated the Canadians for the second-straight time after losing their first three international matches last season to Bansley and Pavan. In addition, the Germans finally defeated a Canadian pair for a gold medal as Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas defeated Laboureur and Sude for the gold medal at the 2015 Chinese Open in Fuzhou.
To reach the Porec Major finale, Laboureur and Sude posted a 2-0 (21-19, 22-20) win in 39 minutes over 10th-seeded compatriots Karla Borger and Britta Buthe to tie the international series between the two teams at 2-2. Bansley and Pavan advanced to the finals by posting a 2-0 (21-17, 21-15) win in 41 minutes over the second-seeded Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany. The Canadian win also snapped Ludwig and Walkenhorst’s 19-match world tour winning streak as the Germans had won the last two FIVB events in Germany (Hamburg) and Poland (Olsztyn).
In the All-German bronze medal match, Borger and Buthe rebounded to defeat Ludwig and Walkenhorst 2-0 (21-19, 21-23, 15-11) in 51 minutes to split the $32,000 third-place prize. It was the fifth FIVB World Tour meeting between the two German pairs headed to Rio as Ludwig and Walkenhorst split $24,000 for the fourth-place finish.
Britta Buthe (right) hits the Mikasa during the Porec Major bronze medal match Saturday with partner Karla Borger following the action at the SWATCH Major Series net.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst, who had won the last two FIVB World Tour events in Germany (Hamburg) and Poland (Olsztyn) along with the European Championships, entered Saturday’s action with a 46-4 record this season with four gold medals to their credit.
In losing twice in the Porec Major “final four”, Ludwig and Walkenhorst lost two-straight matches for the first-time in 15 world tour events dating back to the 2015 FIVB World Championships in The Hague where the Germans were defeated back-to-back by pairs from the Slovak Republic and Russia.
After the Porec Major, the SWATCH Major Series continues with two more stops in Europe at Gstaad Switzerland (July 5-10) and Klagenfurt, Austria (July 26-31). Following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the ASISCS World Series of Beach Volleyball at the end of August in the United States at Long Beach will be the final event used to determine the top eight teams for the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals to be played September 13-18 at a site to be determined.