Brazil scale new heights in Gstaad
Gstaad is one of the sport’s most iconic tour stops 1,050 meters above sea level and this year’s competition returns for the fourth time as part of the Beach Volleyball Major Series family. The highest international tournament might be one of the most traditional on the World Tour, but the new Brazilian constellations add a new element of excitement this season.
Those new partnerships include a potentially explosive combination which pairs the reigning Olympic and World Champions together – Alison Cerutti and André Loyola Stein.
The other half of the Olympic and World Championship winning tandems are playing with different partners. Olympic 2016 Olympic champ Bruno Oscar Schmidt teams up with Pedro Solberg Salgado, while Evandro Gonçalves Oliveira Júnior, last year’s World Champion, partners with Vitor Araújo Gonçalves Felipe.
While the shake-up of the samba sides is the talk of the Alps, some things never change. Last year’s Gstaad champs from America, Nick Lucena and his Swiss-born teammate Phil Dalhausser – aka The Thin Beast – are still together. The question is, can the golden oldies – the team’s combined age is 76 – retain their title this year?
Last year’s women’s gold medalists, Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude of Germany, also remain on the same side of the sand together, but the second seeds face stiff competition to keep hold of their golden cowbell trophy and their title from a host of top teams. Their rivals include the joint-world number one teams Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan of Canada and Brazil’s Maria Elisa Mendes Ticon Antonelli and Carolina Salgado Collet Solberg.
Another player aiming for glory in Gstaad is three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings, who makes her 14th appearance in the Swiss Alps. The legendary 38-year-old US star has won six gold medals in Gstaad during her illustrious career and she goes in search of a seventh here this week with teammate Nicole Branagh.
“To me, Gstaad is Heaven on Earth,” said Kerri. “The people, the setting, the fresh air… it’s the most beautiful place. The fact that Gstaad has been home to the best beach volleyball event for the past 20 years is very fitting. For me it is a combination of two of my favorite things: Gstaad (and all that it offers) and my beloved sport of beach volleyball.”
The USD 600,000 Gstaad Major kicked off with qualification matches on Tuesday with 13 previous Olympians in action in what proved to be a high-quality opening day of play in the picturesque alpine village.
Men’s and women’s pool play begun at 10am CET on Wednesday and the first knockout matches started on Thursday. You can watch all the games live on the Beach Volleyball Major Series BeachStream channel