Corrientes, Argentina, May 26, 2013—Striking fast and hitting hard, Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins powered past the stiff challenge from USA’s Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson to capture the men’s gold medal under the lights in front of a raucous overflow stadium crowd of more than 7,500 new-found beach volleyball fans Saturday to conclude the $440,000 FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam double-gender tournament. The FIVB international event was held for the first time in Corrientes and was being played at the purpose-built site with a temporary center court stadium located on the sands of Arazati Beach – Costanera Sur on the banks of the Rio Parana.
In the gold medal match, made more stirring by the excited boisterous crowd, Latvia’s Samoilovs/Smedins charged ahead and held off the challenges that USA’s Gibb/Patterson mounted, winning in two sets, 21-16, 21-19 in 39 minutes.
In the bronze medal match played before the finale, Italian Olympians Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo played near flawlessly to stop Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt/Pedro Salgado in two sets, 21-13, 22-20 in 38 minutes as Argentinean fans arrived early and in large numbers to fill the stadium as they had they night before for the women’s medal matches.
With Netherland’s Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel earning their first FIVB title Saturday night to end the women’s tournament, the gold medal teams in each gender in the FIVB Corrientes Grand Slam will each split $33,000, the silver $22,000, the bronze $16,500 and fourth place $12,900.
In the gold medal finale, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins came out of the box on fire in the first set and held off all challenges from USA’s Ribb/Patterson, building up a five-point cushion after the USA pulled within one point at 12-13. With the kills by both Samoilovs and Smedins, Latvia pulled out to a five-point lead at 18-13 and the USA got no closer at the end of the set.
In the deciding second set of the gold medal match, USA’s Gibb/Patterson took a lead at 9-8 but Latvia’s Samoilovs kills and blocks and Smedins kills took the lead back quickly. As in the first set, Latvia led 12-9 at the technical time out and after the USA closed to 13-12, Samoilovs had another cross court kill, Smedins killed to the back line eventually taking a 20-18 lead and after Gibb blocked a Samoilovs kill close the gap to one point, Samoilovs closed out the match and clinched the gold medal with a cross-court kill that bounced off the hands of a diving Patterson.
Both veterans, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins were playing just their third FIVB event as a team and overall Samoilovs was playing in his 97th FIVB event and J. Smedins was participating in his 65th. While Samoilovs picked up his third career FIVB gold medal it was his first with J. Smedins as the Latvians finished their amazing run to the title with an unblemished 7-0 record in Corrientes.
As a new team, this was just the third FIVB international tournament for USA’s Gibb/Patterson, who won the FIVB Shanghai Grand Slam three weeks ago in just their second event together. Separately, Gibb was playing his 73rd FIVB tournament and Patterson his 12th. They leave Argentina with a 6-3 record and two podium finishes in their three events as a team.
After his team’s performance, the crowd-pleasing Samoilovs, who frequently encouraged the fans to cheer after another great play and actually danced on the court with the entertainers following the victory, commented, “We feel incredible. It’s the first season we played together so we feel really good about our level. The final match was very tough, but we were up to it. And the people here in Corrientes made us feel great, with a lot of support cheering for us. Definitely, we want to come back here.”
The bronze medal match wasn’t near as close as the two semifinals and the gold medal match as the Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo led early and kept it throughout the first set to win by a large margin. In the second set, Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado rallied with several ties but were unable to close out against the Italian’s because of Nicolai’s blocks and Lupo’s finesse shots that kept the talented Brazilian duo off-guard throughout.
Italy’s Nicolai/Lupo finished the tournament with a 5-2 record while as a team this was their second bronze medal and fifth final four finish in 19 tournaments together.
Both veterans, Brazil’s Schmidt/Salgado have been a team for just the three tournaments this year and this was the second final four following a second at the season-opening FIVB World Tour event in Shanghai. Individually this was the 47th FIVB international tournament overall for Nicolai and 27th for Lupo. For Salgado it was his 100th FIVB overall event while it was the 66th for Schmidt.
Following his team’s bronze medal victory, Nicolai, who led the 2012 London Olympics in blocked shots, said, “We are very happy with this medal, but we are a little disappointed because we lost the semifinals and we think we can do something better so it is very good, but not perfect.”
In the semifinals played earlier Saturday, earning the opportunity for a golden moment in the Argentinean sand, Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins advanced by coming from way down to earn a hard-fought three-set semifinal victory over Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt/Pedro Salgado, losing the first set 14-21 before roaring back to win the second, 21-17 and then break a dead heat in the third to win the set and the match, 15-11 in 51 minutes.
Winning their semifinal match to advance to meet Latvia’s Samoilovs/J. Smedins will be USA’s Gibb/ Patterson who also lost the first set 19-21, hung in and squeezed out the second to get into the third set tie-breaker that was beach volleyball at its best with USA winning a tight match in overtime over the Italians, 17-15 in 55 minutes.
The FIVB World Tour will be off next week as 10 regular FIVB men’s and women’s teams compete in the FIVB World Cup Final special event in Campinas, Brazil. The FIVB World Tour resumes June 11-16 with Round 3 at the $440,000 FIVB Hague Grand Slam.