Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 5, 2015 - With the three top Brazilian women’s teams reaching the “final four” at this week’s FIVB World Tour event on iconic Copacabana beach, it will be two teams from the host country competing for the US$175,000 Rio Open gold medal after the teams of Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca and Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas won three matches each here Saturday.
The top-seeded Talita and Larissa will be meeting the second-seeded Agatha and Barbara for the third-time on the FIVB World Tour as the two Brazilian rivals will be vying for the Rio Open gold medal Sunday along with the victors sharing the $11,000 first-place prize.
Sunday’s gold match will be the first-time the two teams have met on the FIVB World Tour with the previous two meetings being last season in the Austrian Grand Slam. Agatha and Barbara won the first match in a Klagenfurt pool with Talita and Larissa netting a semi-final win over their Brazilian rivals.
Agatha and Barbara were the first to advance to the gold medal match after defeating compatriots and third-seeded Maria Antonelli and Juliana Felisberta 2-0 (21-19, 22-20) in 49 minutes in the first-semi-final. It was the sixth FIVB World Tour meeting between the two pairs with Agatha and Barbara leading 4-2.
Talita and Larissa gained a spot in the finals by defeating fourth-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands 2-0 (21-17, 21-18) in 35 minutes. The Brazilians have won all four FIVB World Tour matches from Meppelink and Van Iersel, including a pair of gold medal victories this over the Dutch in Russia (Moscow) at the end of May and last week in Poland (Olsztyn).
Both pairs had to win elimination matches earlier Saturday as Agatha and Barbara ousted pairs from China to reach their 11th FIVB World Tour semi-final in 32 international starts. Since forming their partnership in July 2014, Talita and Larissa advanced to their 10th semi-final in 15 world tour starts eliminating teams from Germany and Brazil in the Rio Open.
With the Rio Open being the 290th FIVB World Tour event since the start of women’s international competition in 1992, Brazil is assured of its 147th gold medal. Sunday’s finale will mark the 56th-time that two Brazilian women’s pairs have advanced to the world tour gold medal match.
Serving as a “test” event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Rio Open is the 13th women’s event on the 2015 FIVB World Tour calendar with Brazil now assured of winning its 10th gold medal this season. Talita and Larissa have won five events this season, including the last two stops in the United States and Poland. Agatha and Barbara have three gold medals this season, including topping the podium at the FIVB World Championships July 4 in The Hague.
A victory by Juliana and Antonelli will also guarantee Brazil its 24th women’s FIVB World Tour podium sweep. Earlier this season with Agatha and Barbara capturing the gold medals, the women from the South American country collected all three podium spots in the United States (St. Petersburg) and The Netherlands (world championships) in back-to-back events.
One of the Brazilian podium sweeps occurred on Copacabana in September 2004 when Juliana and Larissa captured the bronze medal together during their first full season on the FIVB World Tour. Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires topped the 2004 podium after defeating two-time Olympic silver medal winners Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar in the finals.
The Rio Open concludes with both the women’s and men’s medal matches Sunday. 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.