Olsztyn, Poland, June 16, 2016 - There is no hiding the disappointment on their faces when Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude are asked about not qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I think about it all the time,” said the 28-year old Sude after her match with Laboureur where the 16th-seeded German girls posted a 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) Pool A win in 33 minutes over top-seeded Monika Brzostek and Kinga Kolosinska of Poland. “It really hits home when I visit Facebook and see all the posts from the teams that qualified for Rio.”
“We still are playing to win,” said the 26-year old Laboureur, “it is our job. Defeating the Polish girls was satisfying, especially with their qualification for the Olympics and beating them before their home crowd. Winning matches will help relieve some of the disappointment, but it is still frustrating to know that we were so close.”
Chantal Laboureur of Germany
With only two teams per country allowed to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games’ Beach Volleyball competition, Laboureur and Sude were the No. 4-ranked German pair behind qualifiers Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (6,500 points) and Karla Borger/Britta Buthe (5,200).
Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler finished third for Germany with 4,770 points for their best 12 finishes during the qualifying period that started in April 2015 and ended last week at the smart Major Hamburg while Laboureur and Sude compiled 4,350 points. Holtwick and Semmler’s total was better than six pairs that qualified for the Olympics while Laboureur/Sude’s figure was better than two teams that earned tickets for the Copacabana quadrennial.
“It is disappointing,” was the first words out of 30-year old Semmler’s mouth when talking about the qualifying process. “We had our chance, but lost a big match in Russia to a team from Vanuatu. Then we had our problems closing out a match at the European Championships in Switzerland the next week against Karla and Britta. If we could have won that quarter-final match in the Euros, things might have been different in Hamburg where we had to win the gold medal and hope that Karla and Britta did not reach the quarter-finals
Semmler, who teamed with Holtwick to place ninth at the London 2012 Olympic Games, also noted that her team “did not post enough good Grand Slam or Major results to help us. The key is taking care business and winning matches. Unfortunately, we did not do that at the right times. We wish all the German teams well for the Olympics as we know what a great feeling it is to play in those Games.”
Ilka Semmler of Germany
As for the Olsztyn Grand Slam Thursday, Laboureur and Sude were one of eight pool winners while Holtwick and Semmler placed third in Pool F with a 1-2 record after being upset in their first match Wednesday by a team from Switzerland before splitting two contests Thursday with a win over Spain and a setback to The Netherlands.
While the Germans were talking about their “disappointment” of not going to Rio, another Copacabana-bound pair of Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat won their pool Thursday afternoon with a 3-0 record after finishing 25th and 17th in their last two FIVB World Tour stops in Moscow and Hamburg, respectively, with only one win in seven matches.
After winning a Pool H three-setter Wednesday over 24th-seeded compatriots Kim DiCello/Kendra Vanzwieten 2-1 (12-21, 24-22, 16-14) in 47 minutes, the eighth-seeded Fendrick and Sweat opened play Thursday with a 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) win in 31 minutes over 24th-seeded Rimke Braakman/Jolien Sinnema of The Netherlands before posting a 2-1 (20-22, 21-18, 15-13) victory in 45 minutes over ninth-seeded qualifiers Eduarda Lisboa/Elize Maia of Brazil.
In winning a pool for only the second-time this season in nine FIVB World Tour events, Sweat was asked about playing without the pressure of Olympic qualifying. “Yeah, it feels good to be qualified and now we can focus on Rio and getting better and being on top of our game in August," said Sweat.
"We didn't have our ideal pre-season,” said Fendrick as Sweat was recovering from shoulder problems. “So we had to kind of get our reps in tournaments. We have been getting better and better each tournament. Not the results we have been wanting. But it's coming together and we are executing and getting a little more consistent each tournament. And we are proud of that."
Leading the other women’s group winners Thursday where each team is guaranteed a ninth-place in the competition, $11,000 in prize money and a first-round “bye” when elimination starts Friday were second-seeded Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca (Pool B) and fifth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas(Pool E) of Brazil. The Brazilian teams finished atop the overall Rio ranking for the Copacabana action.
Other group winners were third-seeded Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst of Germany (Pool C), fourth-seeded Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan of Canada (Pool D), sixth-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands (Pool F) and 10th-seeded Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez of Spain (Pool G).
Thursday’s Olsztyn Grand Slam schedule featured pool play matches for both men and women. While the men conclude group play Friday, the women face three-rounds of elimination bracket play to set the lineup for Saturday’s “final four” matches. The men’s eliminator will be Saturday followed by the medal matches Sunday. The winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prizes.