2015-06-07 18:00:00 CEST
The Netherlands claimed the first-ever Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series gold in men's competition at Poreč, Croatia on Sunday, June 7, while Canada went home with silver and Italy took bronze.
As temperatures skyrocketed to 35 degrees Celsius on the sands of the Poreč Major, a Gold Medal showdown blasted off between reigning FIVB Beach Volleyball World Champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands and Canadian chargers Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter. On the line: not only the winner's share of the tournament's Olympic qualifying points and of the $800,000USD in prize money, but the honor of winning history's first Swatch Major Series tournament.
Center Court was fully packed to capacity for the first men's gold medal match ever to take place between the Netherlands and Canada on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The World Champions established their dominance early, using their trademark power beach volleyball to deliver a 21-15 win of the first set. But the scrappy Binstock and Schachter, who had eliminated the number two seed Brazilian legends Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego in Saturday's Quarter Finals, and bested the Dutch team of Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst in the Semis – wouldn't go down without a fight. The Canadians made some desperately fierce saves before Brouwer and Meeuwsen ultimately blocked their shot at gold medal glory by winning the second set 21-13.
“It was really about the weather today,” said an exhausted but smiling Meeuwsen. “We had such a tough match against an Italian team in the Semi Finals that it was really hard to come back and perform for the gold.“
Brouwer gave a heartfelt thank-you to the spectators, saying, “In 2013, it was the audience who boosted us to the World Championship, and here in Poreč I think the crowd support was even better!“
The Bronze Medal Match was three-set stunner, as longshots Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula of Italy – that tough Italian team – downed the other Dutch duo in the final four, Nummerdor and Varenhorst. With Poreč only a short trip from Italy, there was a sea of fans rooting for Ranghieri and Carambula in the rollicking Center Court grandstands, and the 31-seed team – who had been downing opponents all week with an unsettling combination of unconventional tactics – responded, winning the first set against their taller sixth-seed opponents, 21-18. Nummerdor and Varenhorst, a class act playing in their first final four of the 2015 FIVB World Tour season, quickly came back to secure the second set, 21-18. But the exuberant Italians sailed to a 15-10 third set win for the bronze.
In women's medal rounds on Saturday, Brazilian stars Larissa Franca and Talita De Rocha Antunes fought their way to the gold and their sixth consecutive win, with Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan of Canada taking the silver and the Australian team of Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy clutching bronze.
The men and women of the world beach volleyball elite next head to Stavanger, Norway for the second stop of the new Swatch Major Series on June 9–14 as the road to Rio continues.