CUT SHOTS: RESPLENDENT RIO
By Tom Feuer
(Rio de Janeiro, August 1)—Landed in Rio, and despite the dire warnings, I have yet to be stung by a Zika bearing mosquito, gotten robbed at knife point, or became violently sick from the water. In fact, everything from the weather, to the characters hanging out at the beach, makes me think and feel like I am at the Santa Monica Pier instead of halfway around the world. The beach volleyball venue is everything that was promised: a beautiful purpose built structure rising off the sand of Copocabana beach with a seating capacity of 12,000. I can see center court from my hotel balcony. The wind could be tricky for the players. Already there have been strong gusts coming from two different directions: south in the morning, west in the afternoon.
The first person I saw was Italy’s beach volleyball showman Adrian Carambula, which was apropos because he plays with Alex Ranghieri against Austria’s Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst in the initial match of the tournament at 9:00 am ET on Saturday. And then there are 11 matches following that day concluding at midnight Rio time (11:00 pm ET) with Kerri Walsh Jennings against Artacho Del Solar/Laird of Australia, the 55th ranked team in the world for the 2015-2016 season, a perfect way to shake out the cobwebs.
Some of the most intriguing matches of the first day include:
Gibb/Patterson vs Jefferson/Cherif of Qatar 3:30 pm ET Saturday: Jefferson, a Rio native, will have the crowd support, and Cherif is one of the most intriguing players in the tournament. His long arms bely his listed height of 6-5. He is a player with a lot of upside.
Losiak/Kantor of Poland vs Bockerman/Fluggen of Germany 8:00 pm ET Saturday: You might have to be a real beach volleyball wonk to enjoy this one but either one of these teams could be a tough out. The key is the injured players in this matchup: Lars Fluggen of Germany, and Piotr Kantor of Poland. Kantor’s partner Bartosz Losiak just took fourth with Michal Bryl at Klagenfurt over the weekend. Meanwhile, Fluggen and Bockermann were a load at the end of 2015 and the first part of 2016 before Fluggen’s knee problems, including garnering a first and three seconds on the FIVB tour. They defeated Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the gold medal match in Doha last November.
The two “other” American teams start their run on Sunday. Lucena and Dalhausser will play the Tunisians Naceur/Belhaj while Fendrick and Sweat have a tougher draw playing Kolosinksa and Brzostek which could be a critical match for them in their quest to finish in the upper half of their pool. The Poles just finished 9th in Klagenfurt and have not been on the podium since their unlooked for runner-up finish right here in Rio in March.
Now, for my medal picks:
Gold: Alison/Bruno, Brasil
Silver: Samoilovs/Smedins, Austria
Bronze: Dalhausser/Lucena, USA
Gold: Walsh Jennings/Ross, USA
Silver: Larissa/Talita, BRA
Bronze: Ludwig/Walkenhorst, GER (latest Intel is that Walkenhorst may have a sore shoulder)
Tom Feuer has been a close observer of the sport since 1976. He currently works as the Director of Arizona State’s Cronkite Sports Bureau in Santa Monica, CA and is a Professor of Practice. Prior to that, he was the Executive Producer for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in Los Angeles and has won three National Emmy Awards for his work in television.