Olsztyn, Poland, June 18, 2016 - The only thing standing in the way of a third-straight gold medal in Poland for Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca is Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany.
But first, the two Rio 2016 Olympic-bound teams must win semi-final matches at the US$800,000 Olsztyn Grand Slam after the two Beach Volleyball pairs sailed into the morning matches here Saturday with five-straight wins each in the FIVB World Tour event being staged on the Crooked Lake courts behind the Hotel Omega.
The semi-final opponents for second-seeded Talita/Larissa and third-seeded Ludwig/Walkenhorst had a tougher time navigating through the earlier competition in the Olsztyn Grand Slam. Ninth-seeded qualifiers Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa/Elize Maia of Brazil and 23rd-seeded Natalia Dubovcova/Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic entered Friday’s elimination rounds with 1-2 pool play marks.
Both the Brazilian and Slovak Republic teams accomplished the feat of winning three elimination matches Friday to gain berths in the Olsztyn “final four” where Dubovcova and Nestarcova challenge Talita and Larissa in the second semi-final after Duda and Elize Maia meet Ludwig and Walkenhorst in the opening women’s match Saturday as the Brazilian pair will attempt to snap the German's 12-match FIVB winning streak and 19 overall.
Both Talita/Larissa and Ludwig/Walkenhorst will be heavy favorites to reach the Olsztyn finale. The Germans have met Duda and Elize Maia once before on the FIVB World Tour with Ludwig and Walkenhorst defeating the Brazilians last October for the gold medal in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Talita and Larissa have defeated Dubovcova and Nestarcova twice with both matches being in pool play.
Talita and Larissa’s first gold medal together in Poland was two years ago in Stare Jablonki where the Brazilians defeated Ludwig and Julia Sude in the finale. Sude was filling in for Walkenhorst as she recovered from back problems. Last August on the Crooked Lake center court, Talita and Larissa defeated Madelein Meppelink and Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands in the gold medal match as Ludwig and Walkenhorst placed ninth.
Overall, Larissa has won seven gold medals in Poland, including five with Juliana Felisberta in Warsaw (2007) and Stare Jablonki (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). Talita reached the Stare Jablonki podium three times with bronze medal finishes with Maria Antonelli (2009, 2010 and 2011).
Talita Antunes (left) of Brazil hitting at the Olsztyn Grand Slam net Friday against Germany's Ilka Semmler
While Talita and Larissa have won 12 gold medals together since the start of their partnership in July 2014, Ludwig and Walkenhorst claimed their fifth FIVB World Tour title last week at the smart Major Hamburg by defeating Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas of Brazil in the finals.
Dubovcova and Nestarcova will be seeking their third FIVB World Tour medal as the pair last appeared on an international podium at the 2014 United States Grand Slam in Long Beach. Duda and Elize Maia have won two “open” gold medals this season at Brazilian stops in Maceio and Fortaleza.
The 17-year old Duda is also trying to accomplish a feat that no other men’s or women’s player has accomplished in the 30-year history of sanctioned Beach Volleyball events by the FIVB as she is trying to become the first competitor on the international circuit to win both a junior world championship, an “open” event and a Grand Slam in the same year.
In May after winning the “open” events with Elize Maia, Duda teamed with Ana Patricia Silva to win the FIVB under-21 world championships in Lucerne, Switzerland. Duda and Ana Patricia had Beach Volleyball history together as they teamed to win the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics in China.
The Olsztyn Grand Slam will also have elimination rounds for men Saturday while the women play their “final four” matches. The men’s semi-final and medal matches will be played Sunday. The winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prizes.Quick linksOlsztyn Grand Slam homepageFIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour HomepageOlsztyn Grand Slam women's entriesOlsztyn Grand Slam men's entries