Sochi, Russia, May 8, 2016 - After losing to host country favorites Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Konstantin Semenov in a three-set pool play match Thursday, Italians Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai avenged the setback here Sunday evening to capture the gold medal at the US$150,000 Sochi Open before a jam-packed at the Sport Inn center court.
The 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) gold medal win in 36 minutes over the eighth-seeded Krasilnikov and Semenov earned the ninth-seeded Lupo and Nicolai the $11,000 first-place purse while the Russians split $8,000 for placing second. The winning performance also was special for Lupo, who celebrated his 25th birthday Friday when he and Nicolai won two elimination matches after finishing second Thursday to the Russians in their pool.
YOUTUBE interview with Sochi Open men's gold medal winners Lupo/Nicolai of Italy - https://youtu.be/4Z40SQB-SJk
SERIES TIED 3-3
Lupo and Nicolai’s win tied the FIVB World Tour series between the two teams at 3-3 as Krasilnikov and Semenov posted a 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-12) pool play win Thursday in 48 minutes to snap a two-match losing streak to the Italians that included a bronze medal setback at the 2015 Sochi Open last September.
In winning their third FIVB World Tour gold medal, Lupo and Nicolai snapped a two-year drought as the Italians’ first-two gold medals were at back-to-back events in 2014 at international stops in China at Fuzhou (April 26) and Shanghai (May 3) where they won 13 of 14 matches over a two-week period.
“We are delight with this win, especially playing a strong Russian team here in Sochi,” said the 27-year old Nicolai. “Defeating a host country twice in medal matches is special, especially tonight when you are playing for the gold. We played well tonight with very few mistakes. Daniele was at his best tonight and carried us to victory this week. What a birthday present for him.”
Sunday’s finale marked the 68th-time in 341 FIVB World Tour events since the start of the men’s international competition in 1987 that a host country team advanced to a gold medal match against a foreign pair. The invading team has now won 47 of those matches.
While the Russians are now 1-3 in FIVB gold medal matches with a win two years ago in Moscow, Lupo and Nicolai were playing in their third final on the 2015-2016 circuit with title match setbacks in Brazil (Vitoria) and China (Fuzhou). Overall, the Italians have a 3-5 mark in gold medal contests.
To reach the Sochi Open finale, Krasilnikov and Semenov posted a 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) semi-final win over fifth-seeded Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri of Italy in a 37 minutes while Lupo and Nicolai scored a 2-0 (21-17, 21-13) win over third-seeded Tri Bourne and John Hyden of the United States.
In the men’s bronze medal match, Bourne and Hyden defeated 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour leaders Carambula and Ranghieri 2-1 (21-19, 19-21, 15-9) in 49 minutes to even the FIVB World Tour series between the two teams at 2-2. While the Americans split $6,000 for finishing third, Carambula and Ranghieri, who have won two events this season in Turkey and Qatar, shared $4,500 for fourth-place.
YOUTUBE interview with Sochi Open men's bronze medal winners Bourne/Hyden of the United States - https://youtu.be/aGpmyp3eib0
Sunday’s final matches also featured women’s play where fourth-seeded Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland defeated sixth-seeded Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez of Spain for the gold medal 2-1 (21-11, 19-21, 15-7) win in 45 minutes. In the bronze medal match, ninth-seeded Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler of Germany defeated third-seeded Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy 2-1 (20-22, 21-15, 15-10) in 49 minutes.
YOUTUBE interview with Sochi Open women's gold medal winners Heidrich/Zumkehr - https://youtu.be/OMxjXvFUaDU
YOUTUBE interview with Sochi Open women's bronze medal winners Holtwick/Semmler of Germany - https://youtu.be/hycgEjA5p-o
The final four FIVB World Tour qualifying events begin with a stop next week in Turkey (Antalya, 10-15 followed by events in the United States (Cincinnati, May 17-22), Moscow (May 24-29) and Germany (Hamburg, June 7-12). Also counting towards Olympic qualification will be the European championships June 1-5 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.