Gstaad, Switzerland, July 3, 2017 - With Tuesday’s first serve, Gstaad will witness the beginning of its 18th FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event. Only Rio de Janeiro has hosted more with 19.
The Swiss village’s first FIVB World Tour event was a women’s only tournament in 2000 where legendary Brazilians Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede won the inaugural gold medals. Men’s play was added to the competition schedule in 2001 with Americans Stein Metzger and Kevin Wong topping the podium after qualifying for the Main Draw.
Brazilians Shelda Bede (left) and Adriana Behar captured the inaugural women's Gstaad gold medal
Led by Brazil and the United States, pairs from six countries have topped the podiums in Gstaad highlighted in 2004 when Swiss pair Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel delighted the home crowd by winning the men’s gold medal match over Markus Dieckmann of Jonas Reckermann of Germany. Heuscher and Kobel, the bronze medalists at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, also placed third in Gstaad at the 2003 event.
The only other Swiss men’s medals in Gstaad were netted by the legendary Laciga brothers (Martin and Paul) when they lost the 2001 finale to Metzger and Wong. The only women’s podium placement was a bronze medal finish by Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr in 2012.
After sweeping the Gstaad gold medals the past two seasons, Brazilian men and women teams have combined for 17 total titles, including nine for women. Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca won the women’s gold medal the last two Julys with the pairs of Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (2015) and Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg (2016) topping the men’s Gstaad podiums the past two seasons.
The United States has won five men’s and six women’s gold medals in Gstaad with German pairs topping the 2009 men’s (Julius Brink/Reckermann) and 2014 women’s (Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler) podiums. Winning once in Gstaad was a men’s team from Argentina (2002, Martin Conde/Mariano Baracetti) a women’s tandem from China (2013, Chen Xue/Xi Zhang).
Gstaad also hosted the 2007 FIVB World Championships where the Americans captured both gold medals. With both pairs also winning Olympic gold in Beijing the next year, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers where the men’s world champs in 2007 with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings the women’s titlists.
Host Switzerland will have one women’s team in the 24-team qualifier with three tandems already placed in the Main Draw. Playing in the preliminary rounds Tuesday for the host country will be Nicole Eiholzer/Dunja Gerson. Switzerland’s Main Draw women’s pairs include Nina Betschart/Tanja Hüberli, Joana Heidrich/Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Laura Caluori/Elena Steinemann.
A Porec Major bronze medal for Swiss Tanja Hüberli (left) and Nina Betschart
In the past two FIVB World Tour events in the Netherlands and Croatia, the Swiss women have landed on the podium with Heidrich/Vergé-Dépré second in The Hague three weeks ago and Betschart/Huberli third in Porec this past weekend. The Heidrich/Vergé-Dépré partnership is new this season after both players competed in the Rio 2016 Olympic games with Zumkehr and Isabelle Forrer, respectively.
The Swiss pairs of Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr (left) and Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Vergé-Dépré (right) finished second to Germans Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst (center) at the 2016 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto, Canada
The teams of Nico Beeler/Marco Krattiger, Jonas Kissling/Alexei Strasser and Mirco Gerson/Michiel Zandbergen have netted men’s Main Draw spots for Switzerland with Adrian Heidrich/Gabriel Kissling and Florian Breer/Yves Haussener competing in the qualifier for the land-locked European country.