Sochi, Russia, September 13, 2015 – Just one week after they won the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins claimed another gold medal. The Latvians defeated USA’s Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser 2-0 (24-22, 21-19) in the final of the FIVB World Tour Sochi Open.
Samoilovs and Smedins claimed their sixth gold medal (twelfth overall medal) in their 33rd FIVB event. The Americans, who teamed up just two events ago, added another silver to their second place at the Long Beach Grand Slam last month.
Dalhausser and Lucena started off with a three-point lead, but near the end of the first set Samoilovs and Smedins played themselves back into the game. They equalled at 17-17, had their first set point at 20-19, but needed three more before Samoilovs scored the winning point down the line.
In the second set Dalhausser and Lucena tried to put even more serving pressure on Smedins, which gave them a small lead from the start. But again it was Latvia who took over at the end of the set. This time Smedins scored the winner at their second match ball.
The key in winning was avoiding Dalhausser’s big block, which drove Russia’s Konstantin Semenov crazy in the semifinal on Saturday. Samoilovs did a great job at it. He cut around Dalhausser’s hands and when the Americans served on Smedins the Latvians grabbed every opportunity to hit the ball in two.
“Sasha did all the work”, Smedins said. “I just put the ball up in the air and he did all the scoring.” Samoilovs: “Dalhausser served very strong, Janis did a great job putting the ball up so I could finish.”
With this win their season has not ended yet, Smedins said. They missed out of a couple of tournaments this summer because Smedins needed surgery on his knee. So in order to qualify for the Olympics (points and minimum number of events) the Latvians need to play as much tournaments as they can, said Smedins. “We will have a rest for a week and then we are off to the Xiamen Open.”
The same applies for Lucena and two-time Olympian Dalhausser, who individually collected their 9th and 51st medal. Apart from the points they will need at least twelve events to qualify and they only played three so far, missing out on the Rio Open.
Dalhausser: “When we first signed up for Rio there were a lot of teams signed up and we probably would have been in the qualifier. And then all those teams dropped out and we would have been in the main draw. You know they say hindsight is 20/20. It might have been a mistake but there is nothing we can do now.”
“That’s why we play all these Opens”, the 2008 Olympic champion continued. “Every tournament we need a good finish, but rumour has it that there is going to be seven to ten tournaments before June. Hopefully that is the case and we can play all of them.”Italy denies Russia a home medal
Fourth seeded Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai defeated first seeded home team Konstantin Semenov and Viacheslav Krasilnikov 2-1 (21-18, 15-21, 15-13) in the bronze medal match.
Russia came back strong after losing the first set. But in the tiebreak an excellent playing Krasilnikov seemed to be hindered by a lower back injury he sustained in the end of the second set.
Italy took a three-point lead from the start, Russia fought back to level at 11-11 but could not push any further. The match ended with a long rally with Nicolai scoring the final point and leaving Russia empty handed.
The Italians claimed their tenth medal, but the last one dated back to August 2014 (silver at the Klagenfurt Grand Slam).
“It’s amazing, we played a fantastic third set”, Nicolai said. “And we are so happy because it’s our first medal this year and the last FIVB tournament for us this year.”