Tuesday, 23 April 2024

International Volleyball

Parity added to Beach Pro Tour with two new Elite16 winners

Sara Hughes-Tina Graudina-Doha Elite16

As if the Beach Pro Tour wasn’t deep enough. As if four teams winning Elite16 gold medals in 2023 for the men and five for the women hadn’t set the standard as a deep and talent-rich tour, the first event of 2024 added yet another layer.

In Saturday’s finale of the Doha Elite16, two teams — Barbara and Carol of Brazil, Stefan Boermans and Yorick de Groot of the Netherlands — claimed their first Elite16 gold medals as teams.

Thought you knew a thing or two about how the hierarchies were beginning to shake out on the Beach Pro Tour? Think again.

On the women’s side, neither of the top two teams in the world — Brazil’s Ana Patricia Silva and Duda Lisboa, and the USA’s Kristen Nuss and Taryn Kloth — made it to the semifinals. Ana Patricia and Duda were felled, for the first time in their career, by Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson in the quarterfinals. Nuss and Kloth, after a sluggish start in which they went 1-2 in pool play, were upset by Switzerland’s Nina Brunner and Tanja Huberli in the first round of playoffs, finishing ninth.

It made for a unique composition in the semifinals, with seventh-seeded Barbara and Carol, a qualifier pair in Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova, and the three and four seeds, respectively, in Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson. And while a Brazilian team topping the podium is no strange sight in the world of beach volleyball, it was, for the first time, Brazil’s No. 2 pair of Barbara and Carol, veterans of 36 years, rather than Ana Patricia and Duda, being awarded Elite16 gold medals after a 21-18, 21-18 win over Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson.

“We’re really happy with the work we’ve been doing with our team, preparing ourselves in every way we can so we can evolve and bring the best volleyball we have,” said Barbara, who is now the owner of 13 gold medals. “It feels amazing for this to be happening right now.”

Indeed, they have evolved, as their route in Doha required wins over No. 2 Kloth and Nuss in pool play, No. 3 Cheng and Hughes in the semifinals, and No. 4 Humana-Paredes and Wilkerson in the finals, three of the five teams who had won Elite16 golds in 2023.

Cheng and Hughes responded admirably after their semifinal loss to Brazil, sweeping Graudina and Samoilova in the bronze medal match, 21-15, 21-18, capping an excellent tournament with their first bronze medal as a team.

“I did not have my best semifinal match but I think Sara and I did such a…

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