Hamburg, Germany, June 8, 2016 - For Olympic Beach Volleyball bronze medalists Janis Smedins, an 8 a.m. start in the US$800,000 smart Major Hamburg on the side courts at the Am Rothenbaum stadium was not” ideal” here Wednesday for he and his Latvian partner Aleksandrs Samoilovs.
“Playing this early in the morning is crazy as the men are only playing one round today,” said the 28-year old Smedins, who captured the podium spot at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Martins Plavins. “Usually, we play mid-day on the first day when the women open with two sets of matches in pool play. But, today is different and we played very sleepy to start today’s match with the Canadians.”
With the inaugural smart Major Hamburg featuring women’s play, the men’s schedule has 16 matches Wednesday with the last two sets of pool play contests Thursday (32 matches). The women’s schedule features 32 matches Wednesday and the final round of 16 group matches Thursday.
The top three teams from each pool advance to Friday’s elimination bracket where the women will play three rounds and the men two. The winners of each group earn a first-round elimination “bye” and secure a guaranteed ninth in the smart Major Hamburg. The men play their quarter-final contests Saturday and the women contest their semi-finals and medal matches. The men’s semi-final and medal matches will be played Sunday.
After the 13th-seeded Latvians posted a 2-1 (21-23, 21-18, 15-10) win in 45 minutes over 20th-seeded Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter of Canada, Smedins talked about “sleep walking” in the first set along with his team not being able to “sideout consistently. Siding out is a big part of the game and we need to side out a lot better.”
While the match did not “stop” the Canadians bid for a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games via the top 15 spots available for the FIVB World Tour that excludes Brazilians and with a maximum of two pairs per country, Binstock and Schachter need to win at least one of their two remaining pool play matches Thursday to maintain a chance to qualify for the Copacabana quadrennial from the international circuit. Binstock and Schachter (4,250 points) are two spots and 360 points outside of berth for Rio at No. 17.
Binstock and Schachter close pool play matches against fourth-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands and 29th-seeded qualifiers Georgios Kotsilianos/Nikos Zoupanis of Greece. Smedins and Samoilovs will play the Greeks first and the Dutch second Thursday. Brouwer and Meeuwsen posted a 2-0 (21-13, 21-7) win in 28 minutes in Wednesday’s second men’s match.
Sam Schachter of Canada
“I know that was a big match for the Canadians, but it is also big for us as we want to finish in the top six in the overall rankings,” said Smedins, who joined forces with Samoilovs at the start of the 2013 season with the smart Major Hamburg being their 42nd FIVB World Tour event together. “In addition to the honor of being one of the top six qualifiers, you have the prospects of a better draw for Rio.”
With the Rio 2016 Olympic “draw” set for the evening of July 9 in Switzerland at the Gstaad Major, Smedins and Samoilovs entered the smart Major Hamburg as the No. 7-ranked over pair on the Rio list that includes Brazilian Copacabana entrants Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (7,530 points) and Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg (6,250).
With the Rio ranking points determined by a team’s best 12 finishes on the FIVB World Tour and sanctioned continental championships since the start of the process in April 2015, Smedins and Samoilovs have compiled 5,330 points to trail No. 6 Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson of the United States (5,550 points) by 170 points.
At the Gstaad “draw”, a team that finishes No. 1 through 6 is placed in the Rio Olympic bracket according to their ranking. Pairs ranked No. 7, 8 and 9 are placed into a draw to see who competes in the same Olympic pool with the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-seeded teams. Tandems ranked No. 10, 11 and 12 are placed into a draw to see who competes in the same Olympic pool with the first-, second- and third-seeded teams.
The last four overall qualifying finishers (No. 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17) on the Rio ranking lists will also be placed in a draw to see where they play in pools with the No. 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-seeded teams. The No. 6-seeded team will then play in a pool with one of the five continental champions from Africa, Asia, Europe, NORCECA and South American. Tunisia has captured the African confederation spot with the other four berths to be decided at the end of June.
“In the end, being seeded 4, 5 6 could not mean much,” said Smedins, who has captured seven FIVB World Tour gold medals with Samoilovs with 14 podium placements, 17 “final fours” and 26 quarter-final appearances. “You still have to play the matches. Right now, I am more concerned about our side-out game. That is important to be successful.”
Smedins also was “pleased” with the turnout of Latvian fans for their early morning match with the Canadians. “That is great having some fans following us outside of Latvia,” said Smedins, who has been a regular on the FIVB World Tour since 2006. “Those guys followed us to Switzerland two years ago and braved the cold conditions in Gstaad. Last year, they were in Poland. With the success that the Latvian teams have had over the years, Beach Volleyball has become very popular in our country.”