By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The World Beach Volleyball Tour ended its South American and Asian legs after passing through Brasília and Shanghai last month, and now reaches its third stop; Europe. The first of the thirteen events in the old continent will be the Foro Italico Open, in the Foro Italico sports complex, Rome.
Between May 12th and May 17th, the “Eternal City” will hold the first of the three men-only competitions in this year’s calendar, where the world’s top-ranked doubles will face each other for the World Champion title. The winner of the Foro Italico Open gets a prize of $30,000 and points for the World Tour.
A total of 87 men’s doubles teams from 29 different countries have been accepted for entry into the Rome leg, and Brazil will be represented by no fewer than seven: Benjamin Insfran/Hevaldo Moreira, Franco Neto/Pitta, Jan/Thiago, Márcio Araujo/Fábio Luiz, Ricardo/Emanuel, Pedro Cunha/Pedro Salgado and Harley/Alison. The last three doubles have already qualified for the main event, while the first four must go through preliminary stages.
The two first stops of the World Tour were dominated by Brazilian doubles in both male and female categories, claiming a total of eight out of the twelve medals disputed so far – four gold, two silver and two bronze. In the Brasília open, the home country occupied all of the podium spots in the men’s event.
The Ricardo and Emanuel pairing (2003 FIVB World Champions and 2004 Olympic Champions) will ‘headline’ the Foro Italico Open, as they won the season opener in Brasília in their only international appearance so far this year, defeating fellow countrymen Harley and Alison. Despite not having even entered the Shangai Open they still lie in 6th position in the Men’s ranking, with 600 points.
Harley and Alison, now the Men’s Doubles ranking leaders with 1140 points, won gold in Shanghai and Silver in Brasília, and will also go to Rome full of confidence and morale.
The next stop on the Tour will be in Myslowice, Poland, between May 26th and May 31st, which will also be the second of the men-only competitions, before moving on to Stavanger, Norway, where it will return to double-gender events, with a chance to see Brazil’s top female doubles pairings Talita and Maria Elisa (gold in the Shanghai Open) and Ana Paula and Shelda (2008 FIVB World Champions).