Antalya, Turkey, May 15, 22016015 - The men’s gold medal match here Sunday to conclude the competition for the second annual Antalya Open will not be played as a left knee injury for Lars Fluggen forced the German to forfeit his title contest with Marcus Bockermann against Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia.
Seeded ninth in the US$150,000 Antalya Open, Fluggen and partner Marcus Bockermann captured the first semi-final match Sunday by defeating 25th-seeded qualifiers Georgios Kotsilianos and Nikos Zoupanis of Greece 2-0 (21-16, 21-17) in 38 minutes to advance to their fifth FIVB World Tour gold medal match.
The fourth-seeded Samoilovs and Smedins rallied in Sunday’s second semi-finals to post a 2-1 (18-21, 25-23, 15-13) win over sixth-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek of Mariusz Prudel of Poland in the fifth FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams with the Latvians now lead 4-1.
After completing his post-match interviews, Fluggen retired to the athlete’s lounge at BeachPark where his left knee started to swell. It was a FIVB stop in Qatar at the start of April that Fluggen injured his left knee that resulted in meniscus surgery that forced him to miss international events in China, Brazil and Russia before returning to action this week.
“I just did not want to risk any further injury to my right knee,” said the 25-year old Fluggen while the second semi-final was being played Sunday. “We were looking forward to playing the winners of the match to see if we could win our third gold medal, but my knee just was not feeling right and our physio recommended that I stop play today. It is very disappointing as we are in a fight for a spot in the Olympics. We were looking forward to playing to continue to improve our standings.”
With their win over the Greeks in the first-ever FIVB World Tour meeting between the two teams, Bockermann and Fluggen added another 100 points to their qualifying total for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. With the top 15 teams from the international circuit qualifying for the Copacabana quadrennial with a maximum of two pairs per country, Bockermann and Fluggen started the Antalya Open as the No. 15 tandem of the Rio provisional ranking list with 4,400 for their best 12 finishes since the start of the process in April 2015.
By advancing to the finals Sunday, Bockermann and Fluggen erased a 240-point worst 12th finish and added the 450 points the Germans received for placing second in the Antalya Open for a game of 210 points to increase their provisional ranking figure to 4,610 points to move into the No. 14 position ahead Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen of Mexico, who have 4,430 points for their best 12 finishes.
“With this situation, I am 95 percent sure that we will not compete next week in the open event in the United States,” said the 30-year old Bockermann. “The key is for Lars to get some rest prior to playing in the final three qualifying events. Right after the match, we were looking forward to playing for another gold medal, but our physio said we needed to stop. I hope the rest next week and not playing in Cincinnati will help.”
Lars Fluggen (right) of Germany hits against Nikos Zoupanis of Greece
The last qualifying events for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games feature FIVB World Tour stops in Russia for the Moscow Grand Slam (May 24-29) and in Germany for the Hamburg Major (June 7-12). Sandwiched in between the two FIVB events will be the European Championships June 1-5 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
LATVIAN’S NO. 7
Due to the forfeit, Samoilovs and Smedins were awarded the gold medal along with sharing the $11,000 first-place prize while Bockermann and Fluggen splitting $8,000 for placing second. Fluggen’s withdrawal marks the second-time this season he forfeited a medal match as he and Bockermann did not play in the third-place match April 8 in the Qatar Open after retiring in the semi-finals in a contest with Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl of Austria.
“It is unfortunate about Fluggen’s knee problems,” said the 28-year old Smedins, who captured the bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Martins Plavins. “I know how he feels as I missed several events last season with my own knee problems that resulted in surgery.”
“We were looking forward to playing Markus and Lars,” said Samoilovs, who captured the European championships last August with Smedins in Klagenfurt, Austria. “We have split four matches with them on the world tour and today’s gold medal match would have broken the tie. We defeated them twice last September and three weeks later in China they defeated us in a semi-final match (Xiamen) in three sets. We have trained with them, so we have a good relationship with them and are disappointed about Lars knee problems. I know how Markus feels as I went through the same situation last year with Janis.”
BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
With Kotsilianos and Zoupanis being in the first-ever semi-final for a Greek men’s team on the FIVB World Tour since the start of play in 1987, a bronze medal win over Fijalek and Prudel would be the first podium placement for the southern European country. The two teams have never met on the international circuit as Fijalek and Prudel are playing in their 16th FIVB World Tour “final four” with nine medals to their credit.
The US$150,000 Antalya Open is 13th of 23 men’s events on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour calendar. After the remaining FIVB Rio qualifying events in the United States, Russia and Germany, the international circuit stages events in Poland (Olsztyn, June 14-19), Croatia (Porec, June 28-July 3), Switzerland (Gstaad, July 5-10) and Austria (Klagenfurt, July 26-31) before halting for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (August 6-18).