Moscow, Russia, May 29, 2016 - With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games starting in 10 week, Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst of the Netherlands were just looking for continued improvement with their beach volleyball game.
With improvement needed after losing two of their first three matches in the US$800,000 Moscow Grand Slam earlier this week, Nummerdor and Varenhorst finally found their “groove” here Sunday afternoon as the fifth-seeded Dutch pair overcame a second-set thrashing at the hands of top-seeded and reigning world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt to post a 2-1 (21-19, 7-21, 17-15) gold medal win in 48 minutes over the Brazilians.
In winning their third FIVB World Tour gold medal in 18 international starts together, Nummerdor and Varenhorst shared the $57,000 first-place prize. Alison and Bruno, who entered the match with a 2-0 FIVB mark against the Dutch pair highlighted by a three-set win at last July’s world championships in The Hague, split $43,000 for the silver medal.
By winning their last four Moscow Grand Slam matches after their dismal pool record, ummerdor and Varenhorst posted their best international placement together in 10 world tour events since losing the gold medal match to Alison and Bruno at the 2015 FIVB World Championships last July in The Hague. Brazil and The Netherlands have now played 11 times for a FIVB World Tour gold medal with the South Americans holding a 6-5 edge.
As for the gold medal win, the 39-year old Nummerdor said it was a “terrible final. I think the level was terrible, but it was a tough tournament, a long tournament. And you know, in the end the only thing that matters is winning. It doesn't matter how, it's all about winning. If we win an Olympic medal like this, I don't care how we play. It's just, a win is a win."
The Dutch trailed 14-11 in the deciding set and Nummerdor said it was an “incredible comeback. We were down 14-11 and then we still win. I couldn't believe it. But we just kept on playing and never gave up. That's just what we did."
As for the second set when the Brazilians were almost unstoppable, Nummerdor added “We started okay in the beginning, but then I don't know what happened. All the energy flows out of your body and I was thinking we would never recover. I wouldn't say we gave it away, but we didn't push anymore. And they played awesome. They dug every ball and blocked. That set was gone. At a certain point, I was already preparing for the next set in my head."
When asked about the deciding set, Nummerdor said “we didn't play well. I think Bruno was the only guy on court who was playing well, so you just don't serve him. We saw that Alison was struggling. We just put pressure on him with the serve. And Chris was blocking him and he made mistakes as well. And in the end he just made one more than we did."
In the men’s bronze medal match, 17th-seeded Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland scored a 2-1 (19-21, 22-20, 15-12) win in 56 minutes over second-seeded Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson of the United States to share the $32,000 third-place prize. Gibb and Patterson split $24,000 as the Americans were competing in their first “final four” since placing second last August at the Polish Grand Slam in Olsztyn.
In the women’s medal matches, third-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States posted a 2-0 (22-20, 21-17) gold medal win in 36 minutes over second-seeded and defending Moscow Grand Slam champions Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil. Fifth-seeded Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan of Canada claimed the bronze medal with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) win in 38 minutes over sixth-seeded Juliana Felisberta and Taiana Lima of Brazil.
After eight-straight weeks of FIVB World Tour play in Qatar, China, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and the United States, the international circuit will take a week off before resuming play June 7-12 in Hamburg for the first of five SWATCH Major Series events.
The $800,000 Hamburg Major will be the last FIVB World Tour qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the process started in April 2015 with events in China. With 24 teams competing in each gender’s Beach Volleyball competition at the Rio Summer Games, the top 15 pairs, excluding Brazilians with a maximum of two teams per country, will qualify for the Copacabana quadrennial from the FIVB World Tour.
Brazil earned its two Olympic spots per gender by winning the 2015 men’s (Alison/Bruno) and women’s (Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas) FIVB World Championships along with host nation berths (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Talita/Larissa). The seven remaining berths for the Rio Olympics will be determined via the Continental Cup format.