Lausanne, Switzerland, December 23, 2015 - Out of six gold medals available at the 2015 Swatch FIVB World Tour Major Series, Brazilians claimed five - and only the Netherlands came between the South Americans and a complete sweep.
The Netherlands' Robert Meeuwsen and Alexander Brouwer started it all off at Porec, on Croatia's Adriatic coast, dropping a match in pool play 2-1 (21-17, 21-23, 15-13) to fellow-Dutch Nummerdor / Varenhorst, but then moved through the knockout bracket to eliminate Italy's Alex Rangheri / Adrian Carambula 2-1 (18-21, 21-17, 15-9) in the semifinals, before crushing Canada's Sam Schachter / Josh Binstock 2-0 (21-15, 21-13) in the final, in the midst of a scorching 40-degree heatwave.
Robert Meeuwsen and Alexander Brouwer in action during the final in Porec.
The Brazilian players, who had finished 5th (Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg and Ricardo Santos/Emanuel Rego), 9th (Alvaro Filho/Vitor Felipe) and 17th (Alison Cerutti/Bruno Schmidt) in Porec, came back in force as the Majors moved to Stavanger. Evandro/Pedro Solberg lost in pool play 2-1 (21-12, 17-21, 15-13) to Germany's Bockermann/Fluggen, but then went on to defeat Poland's Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel 2-0 (21-18, 21-16) in the semifinals. In just their third international appearance of the season, Evandro/Pedro Solberg then defeated the other Polish pair of Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak 2-0 (21-13, 21-14) in the final.
Again, the eventual winners of the Gstaad Major lost a game in pool play. This time it was Brazil's Alison Cerutti/Bruno Schmidt, who fell to Fijalek/ Prudel 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) before continuing all the way to the final without dropping another set. After doing away with Rangheri/Carambula 2-0 (21-13, 21-12) in the semis, the Brazilian pair were pushed to their limits by Latvia's Janis Smedins/Aleksandrs Samoilovs, but prevailed for a 2-1 (21-16, 13-21, 15-10) win that earned them gold.
In the women's competitions, Brazil got it right from the outset. Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes dropped a couple of sets on their way through pool play and the knockout bracket at the Porec Major, but quickly eliminated Canada's Valjas / Broder 2-0 (21-19, 21-19) in the semifinals, before going on to edge the other Canadian entrants of Heather Bansley / Sarah Pavan 2-1 (21-16, 25-27, 15-12) in the final.
Larissa Franca goes for the dig in front ofTalita Antunes in the Porec Major final.
In what was becoming a recurring theme, a week later at the Stavanger Major Brazil's Juliana Felsiberta and Maria Antonelli lost in pool play to Germany's Borger / Buth 2-1 (21-18, 16-21, 15-11), before meeting them again in Round 3, where they promptly demolished them 2-0 (21-14, 21-9). Juliana / Antonelli went on to narrowly edge The Netherlands' MadeleinMeppelink & Marleen Van Iersel 2-1 (19-21, 23-21, 16-14) in the semis, before defeatingBarbara Seixas / Agatha Bednarczuk 2-0 (21-16, 21-15) in an all-Brazilian final.
As the tour moved to Switzerland for the Gstaad Major, Larissa and Talita were back. This time there were no mishaps in pool play, nor in the knockout stage, as the Brazilian pair cruised through the competition without conceding as much as a single set -and that included the final, where they thrashed their fellow Brazilians Taiana Lima / Fernanda Alves 2-0 (21-13, 21-17). In fact, no opponent scored more than 19 points against them in any set!
Larisa Franca and Talita Antunes erupt with joy on clinching the gold at the end of a remarkable journe through the Gstaad Major.