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2018-07-25 11:46:00 CEST

European men make beach history

Men’s top 10 dominated by Europe

The men's podium in Gstaad: complete with three European teams The men's podium in Gstaad: complete with three European teams

Has the pendulum of dominance in beach volleyball swung in the Europeans’ direction? Well if you take a look at the latest men’s FIVB world rankings you might just think so.

For the first time in beach volleyball history, the men’s top 10 is completely made up of European teams. There’s not a single Brazilian or American in sight. Fort Lauderdale Major champs Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser lie in 11th, while the next best Brazilians teams in the ranking are partnerships that are not even together any more. Fourteen teams in the top 20 hail from Europe.

Of course there is a case for the defense for the American and Brazilian powerhouses. Nick and Phil have played in just four World Tour tournaments in 2018 (the least in their long, successful careers) having divided their time between international and AVP events (two golds and one silver in three of those, by the way). On the Brazilian side, meanwhile, well, that’s a different story. A number of the top teams who dominated the World Rankings split at the end of May.

Where once there were Alison/Bruno, Evandro/Andre and Pedro/Guto riding high in the rankings, their places have been taken by a strong and hugely competitive European challenge. Will that change? All eyes will be on the Brazilians at the A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch next week to see if they can turn it around.

But the Europeans who sit side-by-side in the men’s top 10 are undoubtedly there on merit following a series of consistent results in the big tournaments. Sitting pretty at the top are Polish pair Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor, whose figures this season read one gold, two silver and one bronze, one fourth, two fifths and two ninths from nine tournaments this year. Up into fifth, and out of nowhere, are Anders Mol and Christian Sørum, the Norwegian beach volley Vikings, who haven’t lost in 10 games following back-to-back Gstaad and European titles.

It all means we’re guaranteed an interesting Vienna Major, with the race well and truly on to book a spot in the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals presented by Vodafone in Hamburg. As it stands, the men’s Finals will be completely contested by Europeans.

In Fort Lauderdale in March, the women's podium saw two Brazilian teams and one from the US take the medalsIn Fort Lauderdale in March, the women's podium saw two Brazilian teams and one from the US take the medals

It’s a different story in the women’s tournament, however. Just three European teams lie in a top 10 that has two Canadian teams at the summit. Out-and-out new leaders are Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson. A bronze in Gstaad was the pair’s fourth medal in their last five tournaments. They are in the form of their lives as a partnership and only 40 points separate them from Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, who took gold in Switzerland.

Brazilian teams are faring better, with Maria Antonelli and Carol Solberg in third place and Fort Lauderdale champs Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Berti, who will return to Vienna after missing Gstaad, in eighth. For the Americans, however, you need to slide your finger down to 20th to spot the top-ranked US tandem, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross. April Ross and Alix Klineman are down in joint-25th, yet both of these teams are in the midst of first seasons and have had AVP commitments – and successes – to juggle with the international tour. Just like the men, there are mitigating circumstances.

A season without a World Championships and before Olympic qualification begins can throw up the unexpected. But the European teams can, at his moment, rejoice at deservedly creating this little piece of history, knowing that the gap between them and the Americans and Brazilians is closing all the time.

It’s safe to say, the forthcoming Olympic race has the makings of one of the most exciting in recent history… and only a fool would write off the Americans and Brazilians in this game.

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