Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 4, 2015 - The second of two days of pool play for the women in the US$150,000 Rio Open featured a pair of match wins each for London 2012 Olympic medal winning players here Friday from Beach Volleyball powers Brazil and the United States to set the stage for the 16-team elimination rounds.
Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings teamed with London 2012 Olympic silver medal winner April Ross to defeat teams from Austria and Brazil on the Copacabana beach courts Friday to capture the Pool F title. The Americans are playing in their third-straight event as Walsh Jennings is returning to FIVB World Tour action after dislocating her right shoulder in mid-July at the Swiss Major event in Gstaad.
Playing with different partners now, London 2012 Olympic bronze medal winners Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta of Brazil won also won two matches Friday with Talita Antunes (Pool A) and Maria Antonelli (Pool C), respectively. Talita and Antonelli placed ninth in London before splitting after the 2012 Summer Games.
As the top-seeded team in the Rio Open, Talita and Larissa posted victories Friday over American pairs with one on the sand and the other via a forfeit. Talita and Larissa will be seeking their third-straight FIVB World tour gold medal after winning the last two stops in the United States and Poland. Overall, the Brazilians have five first-place finishes this season.
Juliana and Antonelli scored wins over Austria and German tandems Friday as the 2014 FIVB World Tour champions chase their second gold medal finish this season and third since forming their partnership at the start of last season. Juliana and Antonelli are competing against Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas for Brazil’s second women’s berth in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Agatha and Barbara, who captured the 2015 FIVB “senior” World Championships at the start of July in The Hague, captured Pool B with wins Friday over pairs from Germany and China. The second-seeded team in the Rio Open, Agatha and Barbara have won two other FIVB World Tour events this season in the Czech Republic and the United States.
Other pairs winning pools Friday were Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands (Pool D) and a fourth Brazilian team - Fernanda Alves/Taiana Lima (Pool E). The Dutch have compiled four FIVB World Tour podium placements this season with two gold medal setbacks to Talita and Larissa in Russia and Poland. Fernanda and Lima were silver medal winners at the 2015 world championships in The Hague.
The Rio Open, the 13th women’s stop on the 2015 FIVB World Tour, is serving as a “test” event for the 2016 Summer Games to be played next August on the same site on Copacabana Beach. The Rio Open concludes with both the women’s and men’s medal matches Sunday where the winning pairs in both genders will share the $11,000 first-place prizes.
Following the Rio Open, the FIVB World Tour crosses the Atlantic Ocean for a stop in Russia (Sochi, September 8-13) before taking a week off before visiting China (Xiamen, September 22-27) for the second-time in 2015. The “elite” players on the international circuit will be featured September 29-October 4 at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.