Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 6, 2015 - After early-season frustrations due mostly to an injury, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins regained their winning ways on the FIVB World Tour by capturing the men’s gold medal match here Sunday morning at the US$150,000 Rio Open by defeating Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen of Germany in the All-European finale.
With the 12th men’s stop on the 2015 FIVB World Tour serving as a “test” event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the third-seeded Samoilovs and Smedins posted a 2-0 (21-15, 25-23) win in 45 minutes over the 10th-seeded Germans to collected the $11,000 first-place prize. The gold medal finish was the Latvians’ fifth on the FIVB World Tour and first since winning in May 2014 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The gold medal win also avenged the Latvians’ pool play loss Friday to Bockermann and Fluggen as the Germans defeated Samoilovs and Smedins 2-1 (13-21, 31-29, 15-13) in group action Friday in 53 minutes. Earlier this season in the Swiss Major in Gstaad, Samoilovs and Smedins posted a 2-1 (21-17, 19-21, 15-9) pool play win in 45 minutes in the only other FIVB World Tour match between the two teams.
Samoilovs and Smedins entered the 2015 international season as the two-time FIVB World Tour champions after winning the crown in both 2013 and 2014. Knee surgery forced Smedins to miss four June events with Samoilovs this season as the pair reunited in mid-July to place second in the Gstaad Major before winning the European Championships in early August at Klagenfurt, Austria.
A newly-formed team in 2015, Bockermann and Fluggen split $8,000 for finishing second. The Germans opened the campaign by topping the podium in the China (Fuzhou), but struggled with two 17ths, three 25ths and a 41st in their next six FIVB World Tour events. Bockermann and Fluggen placed fifth two weeks ago in the United States (Long Beach) and did not qualify for the Main Draw last week at the Polish Grand Slam in Olsztyn.
In creating the third All-European men’s FIVB finale this season, Bockermann and Fluggen put an end to five-straight gold medal finishes by top-seeded Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt by posting a 2-1 (21-16, 13-21, 15-10) win in 49 minutes over the reigning FIVB world champions from Brazil in Saturday’s second-semi-final match.
Samoilovs and Smedins started the semi-final success at the Rio Open for Europe by defeating 16th-seeded Saymon Barbosa and Gustavo Carvalhaes 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) in 35 minutes. The young Brazilians were playing in their third FIVB World Tour event.
In the bronze medal match, the 21-year old Saymon and 22-year old Gustavo netted their first-ever FIVB World Tour medal by upsetting Alison and Bruno 2-1 (21-14, 17-21, 15-8) in 47 minutes. It was the second win by the young Brazilians over the world champs with the first coming three weeks ago in a domestic event in Brazilians. Two weeks ago in the United States, Alison and Bruno won the world tour meeting between the two teams in three sets.
In placing third, Saymon and Gusto split $6,000 while Alison and Bruno shared $4,500. By dropping their final two Rio Open matches, Alison and Bruno dropped two-straight matches for the first-time since the Porec Major in Croatia. For the season, Alison and Bruno have a 54-11 FIVB World Tour match mark as the No. 1-ranked team on the planet.
With the Rio Open being the 15th men’s FIVB World Tour event in the Brazilian coastal city, Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckermann of Germany defeated Athens 2004 Olympic bronze medal winners Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel of Switzerland in the finals. In the previous 13 Rio stops, European pairs had never reached the podium with only fourth-place finishes to the continent’s credit.
Samoilovs now has a 13-1 match mark on Copacabana beach as he and Martins Plavins captured the gold medal at the FIVB under-21 World Championships with seven-straight wins. While Samoilovs is a two-time Olympian, Smedins teamed with Plavins to win the bronze medal at the London 2012 Summer Games.
Following Sunday’s men’s and women’s medal matches where the winning teams will share the $11,000 first-place prizes, the FIVB World Tour crosses the Atlantic Ocean for a stop in Russia (Sochi, September 8-13) before taking a week off. The international circuit visits China (Xiamen, September 22-27) for the second-time in 2015 after the break with the “elite” teams will be featured September 29-October 4 at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.