Yokohama, Japan, July 26, 2015 – Germany’s Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst claim gold after an incredible day, defeating Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas De Freitas 2-0 (21-14, 21-17) in the final of the 2015 FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam. The double gender $800,000 FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam marks the first time both men and women have competed together in a FIVB World Tour event in Japan.
The German girls pulled out a masterful day of beach volleyball first beating April Ross/Jennifer Fopma from USA in an epic semifinal that went all the way to 2-1 (21-19, 17-21, 23-21), before meeting Agatha/Barbara in the final.
“I really can’t believe it right now, it’s amazing. It’s our second time that we get a gold medal and I’m so happy that we did it. I think it was a fight for all four players and I’m so happy to play with Laura, she did so well and I love it,” said Walkenhorst.
“We won and it is so amazing. We are so happy the referee called the last point in. It was a really tough match and everybody was really exhausted but overall we are just so happy,” said Ludwig.Ludwig/Walkenhorst’s day
The gold medal match unfolded between Ludwig/Walkenhorst and reigning world champions Agatha/Barbara on the centre court against the stunning backdrop of Yokohama Bay. Brazil kept a hold on the lead in the first with Agatha putting away two well placed points on her serve at 14-13 to the Brazilians. However 14 points is where Brazil would remain for the remainder of the set with Ludwig/Walkenhorst carefully reading the match. Excellent positioning from Ludwig and strength at the net from Walkenhorst put the Germans ahead after the first set 21-14.
Barbara’s serve opened the second set and Brazil looked like they were coming back angling balls well to edge ahead. At 15-13 Walkenhorst made no mistake in sinking a huge slam into the centre of the opposing side and more great control from Ludwig pulled the German team into the lead and onto the win 2-0 (21-14, 21-17).
“We kept on serving really good, we put them under pressure again and we were really focused. It was really tough, this whole week was really hot and for everybody here is was really hot and really unbelievably tough, but in the end I think we really, really wanted this gold medal. They already have some gold medals so it was our time,” said Ludwig.
“I think we really played a good tournament. Every game we just got better. It was really tough and very hot here, so I am really happy that we fought until the end and made the last point,” Walkenhorst.
Barbara/Agatha take their fifth FIVB medal of 2015 with silver in Yokohama.
“We got the silver but it wasn’t the way we expected. The Germans played very well and we want to congratulate them. We were very tired this week and it was very tough for us to play with high concentration, but we are happy to be in the final and get one more medal for our country. So, thank you for everybody who cheered for us,” said Barbara.Pavan/Bansley take bronze
Canada’s Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan had undergone a gruelling semifinal against Agatha/Barbara in which the Brazilians won 2-1 (25-23, 19-21, 15-12) before facing April Ross/Jennifer Fopma from USA in the bronze medal match. Ross/Fopma were very together in the opening set and even with great defensive play from Bansley, USA had the upper hand. With Fopma’s work at the net and finding the line at set point, the first went to USA 21-15.
The second saw excellent athleticism from Bansley saving point after point and even with powerful Ross/Fopma attacks the Canadians began to turn the set in their favour. USA saved two set points before a superb set point with huge efforts from every player sent the match into the tie-break.
Pavan utilised her 196cm height at the net with big blocks as the match began to push the women’s endurance to the limits. A cross court Bansley hit set up match point and bronze was secured by Bansley/Pavan 2-1 (15-21, 22-20, 15-9) for their fourth FIVB medal of the 2015 season.
“It feels really good, we had a really, really tough semifinal match and to come back right after that was really, really hard but Jen and April are a really good team and we knew that we would have to come out strong but we’re really, really happy that we leave here with a medal,” said Pavan.
“We started serving Jen and she was siding out pretty effectively and we switched over to April and we were just getting a little better read on her and making some digs and then I think when we went back to Jen she just wasn’t in the same rhythm as she was and our side-out steadied a little bit so I think that was the difference,” said Bansley.
“Every step every Grand Slam is really important because there are not that many of them and we’ve really been trying to keep progressing as the year goes on. We’ve been getting some good finishes but we’ve been wanting to make the semis a like more often and following Gstaad up with this finish, I think we’re on the right track so I think we’re pretty happy,” said Pavan.
This year’s FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam will be the third of five double-gender FIVB Grand Slams, each with a total purse of $800,000, on the FIVB World Tour 2015. Seven FIVB men’s only events were held in Japan from 1989-1995 with six being held in Enoshima and one in Yokohama in 1991. A total of 14 women’s only events were held in Osaka from 1994-2005 and in 2008 and 2009.
Japan has hosted a total of 21 FIVB World Tour events (seven men, 14 women) with the United States leading the medal count for men and Brazil dominating the medal tally for women.
Following the Yokohama Grand Slam the 2015 FIVB World Tour will have a three-week break before resuming in the United States with the double-gender FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam in Southern California set for August 18-23.