The story of the 2019 European Beach Volleyball Championships, aka EuroBeachVolley, this week in Moscow varies greatly whether you’re looking at the women’s tournament or the men’s.
On the women’s side, three top teams have had to withdraw due to injury, offering up-and-coming teams the opportunity to step up. The men’s field, on the other hand, features nine former European champions, the No. 1 team in the world, and 17 teams that have medaled already in the 2018-19 FIVB season, so competition for gold couldn’t be stiffer.
Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of what to expect at EuroBeachVolley this week, and watch the semis and finals right here on FloVolleyball, Aug. 10-11.
Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum headline the men’s main draw, heading to Moscow having won seven of 11 FIVB World Tour events they’ve competed in this year.
Mol, 22, and Sorum, 23, played their first FIVB tournament together in 2016 and were on-and-off partners through the 2017 season, but by 2018 they were dominating. The 2018 Gstaad Major marked their first senior World Tour win, and they followed that up with two more consecutive victories in Vienna and Hamburg to close out the season. Since then, they’ve won in Las Vegas, Itapema, Jinjiang, Ostrava, Gstaad, Tokyo, and Vienna.
“It’s so hard to describe because one year ago, two years ago, we were watching the stars on YouTube,” Sorum said in an interview with the FIVB after winning the 2019 Vienna Major. “I was playing some qualifications, some opens and two years later we are No. 1 in the world, and we play in tournaments in front of people like this, we beat teams like Alison [Cerutti], a legend in the sport.”
“They’ve been the best team in the world for the last year and it’s important for us to play them,” Alison, whom the Norwegians beat in last week’s Vienna gold-medal match, said. “The last time I played them was one year ago and it’s impressive how much better they’ve got.”
Norway’s young legends have lost just six matches this year, never losing to the same team twice, and four of those six teams to have beaten Mol and Sorum are competing at EuroBeachVolleyball: Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia, Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland, Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera of Spain, and Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler of Germany.
Stoyanovskiy and Krasilnikov are the newly crowned world champions, beating Thole and Wickler in the gold-medal match in Hamburg last month. Gavira and Herrera won the European Championships in 2013 and have 20 FIVB podium finishes in their 11-year partnership.
But the list of possible 2019 European kings doesn’t end there. You’ve also got three-time European champs Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy; the Netherlands’ powerful duo of Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen; Italy’s Adrian Carambula, the most entertaining player on tour, and his partner Enrico Rossi; and 2015 European champions Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, who also have four EuroBeachVolley silver medals on their resumes.
For the women, Barbora Hermannova and Marketa Slukova were the favorites and the No. 1 seed, especially after beating Alix Klineman and April Ross in last week’s Vienna event, but Slukova suffered a knee injury in Vienna and the Czech team will sit this one out.
Previous No. 3 seed Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink and No. 26 seed Jolien Sinnema and Laura Bloem, both of the Netherlands, withdrew due to injuries. Martyna Kloda and Agata Ceynowa of Poland, Victoria Faye Kjølberg and Ane Guro Tveit Hjortland of Norway, and Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina of Russia replace the three withdrawn teams.
Laura Ludwig and Maggie Kozuch top my list of teams that could take advantage of these absences and win the 2019 European Championship. Ludwig, a 2016 Olympics gold medalist and four-time European champion, had her first child last July and then in January, her partner Kira Walkenhorst retired due to injuries. Ludwig’s first season back post-pregnancy playing alongside Kozuch, a 32-year-old former indoor star for Germany, started slowly. Their results page shows a lot of 25th, ninths, and 17ths, but last week in Vienna, they broke through, taking a fifth, defeating many good teams along the way.
I’m also going to call out Marleen van Iersel and Joy Stubbe of the Netherlands and Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Oris Toth of Italy as possible gold medalists in Moscow this week. Thirty-one-year-old Van Iersel has two European Championships gold medals and is currently in her second season play with 22-year-old Joy Stubbe. Menegatti is another previous European champion, having won with Greta Cicolari in 2011 when Menegatti was just 20 years old.
Finally, make sure to follow Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka of Latvia. Graudina plays for the USC beach volleyball team and in 2019 boasted a 33-2 record at the No. 1s with Abril Bustamante. On the World Tour this summer, Graudina and Kravcenoka have thrice placed ninth, including at the World Championships.
EuroBeachVolley 2019 begins with pool play Aug. 5-8 for the women and Aug. 6-8 for the men. Then elimination begins, with it all culminating in the semis and medal rounds over the weekend.