Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 4, 2015 - It is a week short of 10 years and the “Lion King” is still winning on iconic Copacabana.
Aleksandrs Samoilovs, aka “The Lion King”, is competing on Copacabana beach this season with Janis Smedins as the Latvians split a pair of matches over teams from Brazil and Germany here Friday to win men’s Pool C in the US$150,000 Rio Open to advance to next phase of the competition in the “test” event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Combined with his team’s opening group win Thursday over an Australian pair, Samoilovs has now won nine of 10 matches on the same site where the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be played next August. The first seven wins on Copacabana beach for Samoilovs were posted September 7-11, 2005, when the “Lion King” and Martins Plavins captured the gold medal at the FIVB under-21 World Championships.
The last two wins in the 2005 under-21 worlds were posted over a team and player competing in this week’s Rio Open. After defeating Brazilians Pedro Solberg and Tiago Santos in the semi-finals, Samoilovs and Plavins netted the gold medal with a win over Jackson Henriquez and Jesus Villafane of Venezuela.
While Pedro Solberg is competing this week with Evandro Goncalves (Pool B), the Venezuelans were playing on Copacabana for the Rio Open, but dropped all three of their matches to finish 19th in the 12th men’s event on the 2015 FIVB World Tour calendar. In the last Pool B match Friday, Pedro Solberg and Evandro posted a 2-1 (16-21, 21-18, 15-13) win in 54 minutes over Jackson and Villafane.
Pedro Solberg and Evandro, bronze medal finishers at the 2015 FIVB “senior” World Championships in The Hague at the start of July, also won their group Friday with two wins to join compatriots Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (Pool A) and Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos (Pool E) as unbeaten pairs in the Rio Open.
Alison and Bruno are the reigning world champions and will be seeking their sixth-straight FIVB World Tour gold medal when the 16-team elimination rounds start Saturday. The Rio Open concludes Sunday with the medal matches as the winning pairs in both genders will share the $11,000 first-place prizes.
Other group winners Friday were Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri of Italy (Pool D) and Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen of Mexico (Pool F). The Mexicans captured the gold medal at 2015 PanAmerican Games in Canada where Ontiveros and Virgen defeated Brazil’s Vitor Felipe and Alvaro Filho in the Toronto finals. Alvaro is missing his week’s event due to a leg injury.
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. The international circuit visits 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.