Olsztyn, Poland, June 13, 2016 - After an intense 16 months of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games featuring 28 women’s and 30 men’s FIVB World Tour events to determine 15 spots for both genders for the Copacabana quadrennial, the international circuit “might be” back to normal starting here Tuesday for the US$800,000 Olsztyn Grand Slam.
“Back to normal?” screamed one player that asked not to be identified. “Yes, qualifying via the world tour is completed, but many of the players are using this week for part of their Olympic preparation while another group of competitors are using it to prepare for the Continental Cup events later this month. This week’s event will be as competitive as ever!”
Returning to the Warmia Mazury region of Poland for the 13th-straight season, Olsztyn will be hosting a FIVB World Tour event for the second-straight year after the first 11 events were played in Stare Jablonki where the international Beach Volleyball federation sanctioned the 2013 world championships.
"It’s one of the best places for Beach Volleyball in our country,” said tournament director Rafal Pospiech, who organizes the event along with the Polish Volleyball Federation and its Beach Volleyball coordinator Magdalena Smiecinska. “With the success we had with our event last year, we have added more seats to the center court. The forest setting for two of our five competition courts will play an important role this year and helps make the event unique. About 1,000 places in the tribune will be ticketed, like last year. The rest of the seats will be free!"
Three of the competition courts are located behind the Hotel Omega on Crooked Lake with the “forest” courts a 10-minute lakeside walk from the main venue for the FIVB World Tour stop that follows last week’s SWATCH Major Series stop in Hamburg where a German women’s and a United States men’s team topped the podium at the inaugural smart Major Hamburg.
Following two rounds of qualifying competition Tuesday at the Olsztyn Grand Slam for women and Wednesday for men where eight teams from both genders will advance to the Main Draw, the “money” rounds begin the fourth of nine “big” event on the FIVB World tour with two days of pool play.
Pool play for women will be Wednesday and Thursday where the top three pairs from each group advance to Friday’s three rounds of elimination bracket confrontations to set the field for Saturday’s semi-finals and medal matches. The men’s group play starts Thursday with three rounds of elimination Saturday and “final four” contests Sunday. The winning teams will split the $57,000 first-place prizes.
The 2015 Olsztyn Grand Slam champions return to defend their titles as Brazilians Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca topped the women’s podium by defeating Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands 2-1 (21-12, 25-23) in the 37-minute finale. Reigning FIVB world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt captured Olsztyn gold medal last August for Brazil with a 2-0 (21-10, 21-15) win in 34 minutes over Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson of the United States.
Olsztyn Grand Slam tournament director Rafal Pospiech (left) helped Talita Antunes celebrate her birthday on August 29, 2015 on the Crooked Lake center court.
As of press time on Monday, a total of 95 teams from 28 countries will be competing in the 2016 Olsztyn Grand Slam with host Poland having seven men’s and six women’s teams in the competition led by the recently-qualified pairs for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel, Bartosz Losiak/Piotr Kantor and Kinga Kolosinska/Monika Brzostek
While Fijalek and Prudel have qualified for their second Olympics after placing fifth at the London 2016 Summer Games, the other two pairs will be participating in their first prestigious quadrennial event on Copacabana August 6-18. Losiak and Kantor won the Rio Grand Slam earlier this season where they defeated Dalhausser/Lucena in the quarter-finals and Fijalek/Prudel in the semi-finals.
Kolosinska and Brzostek, who posted their best-ever FIVB World Tour finish with the silver medal at the mid-March Rio Grand Slam on Copacabana, placed third at the 2015 Olsztyn Grand Slam where the Polish women played two teams from The Netherlands in the “final four” matches. After losing to Meppelink and Van Iersel in the semi-finals Kolosinska and Brzostek defeated Jantine van der Vlist and Sophie van Gestel 2-0 (21-12, 21-16) in the 33-minute bronze medal match.
Poland's Monika Brzostek (left) and Kinga Kołosińska
Other Polish pairs in the “money” rounds will be men’s teams of Michal Kadziola/Jakub Szalankiewicz, Michal Bryl/Kacper Kujawiak and Maciej Kosiak/Maciej Rudol. Men’s tandems in the qualifier are Martin Chiniewicz/Maciej Kaluza and Bartlomiej Dzikowicz/Adam Parcej. Other Polish women’s teams in the Main Draw are Katarzyna Kociolek/Martyna Wardak and Jagoda Gruszczynska/Dorota Strag. Playing for Poland in the women’s qualifier will be Agnieszka Adamek/Natalia Gruszczynska. Agnieszka Woloszyn/Aleksandra Zdon and Agata Trybula/Monika Gorzka. In addition the The 2016 Olsztyn Grand Slam is the third of the four FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops with events completed in Rio de Janeiro (March 8-13 on iconic Copacabana) and Moscow (May 24-29). The final FIVB Grand Slam event will be staged following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the United States Long Beach in southern California (August 23-28).