Panagiota Karagkouni (right) celebrates a Greek victory Tuesday with Vasiliki Arvaniti after winning their first qualifying match over Austria in three sets.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 8, 2016 - Beach Volleyball pairs from eight countries won two qualifying matches each Tuesday to advance to Wednesday’s opening Main Draw pool play rounds in the US$800,000 Rio Grand Slam being played on the Copacabana site where the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be played. With the qualifying process on the FIVB World Tour for the Rio 2016 Summer Games concluding in mid-June, the Rio Grand Slam is the 19th of 28 Olympic qualifying events for women. The Rio Grand Slam is the third of five Olympic qualifying events being staged in the South American country with the final two tournaments being next week in Vitoria (March 15-20) and at Fortaleza (April 26-May 1). Leading Tuesday’s women’s qualifiers were top-seeded Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Elize Maia as the Brazilians ousted pairs from South Africa and The Netherlands. Duda and Eliza Maia captured the last FIVB World Tour event for women by netting the gold medal at the Maceio Open February 28. BREAKTHROUGH Making the biggest break-through Tuesday was 20th-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti/Penny Karagkouni of Greece. After eliminating 13th-seeded Barbara Hansel and Stefanie Schwaiger of Austria 2-1 (21-13, 16-21 and 15-13) in 48 minutes, the Greeks posted a 2-1 (12-21, 21-14, 15-10) victory in 44 minutes over fourth-seeded Jantine van der Vlist/Sophie van Gestel of The Netherlands. The 30-year old Arvaniti, a three-time Olympian for Greece, and the 23-year old Karagkouni, were playing in their fifth FIVB World Tour qualifier together with Tuesday marking the first-time the two had advanced from the preliminary rounds to the Main Draw. Six other times on the international circuit the Greek pair was automatically placed into Main Draws without playing in a qualifier. “I am so happy,” said Arvaniti. “Two weeks ago in Maceio we could not win our first match and placed 41st. We worked and trained hard the past week to get ready for this week. Our hard work paid off and being in our first Main Draw Grand Slam together since 2013 is a great accomplishment for us.” OTHER QUALIFYING TEAMS Also advancing to Wednesday’s Main Draw were second-seeded Melissa Humana-Paredes/Taylor Pischke of Canada, third-seeded Barbora Hermannova/Marketa Slukova of the Czech Republic, fifth-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany, sixth-seeded Natalia Dubovcova/Dominika Nestarcova of the Slovak Republic, seventh-seeded Taru Lahti/Riikka Lehtonen of Finland and ninth-seeded Mariafe Artacho/Nicole Laird of Australia. Host Brazil will now have five pairs in the women’s Main Draw as Laboureur and Sude advanced to the Main Draw by eliminating 21st-seeded host country entrants Carolina Horta and Ana Patricia Silva in two sets. Ana Patricia was Duda’s partner when the young Brazilians won the gold medal at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China. TOP BRAZILIAN ENTRIES Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas and Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca, who were named last September as Brazilian Olympians for the Rio 2016 Summer Games, will be the top host country teams in the women’s Main Draw. Other teams from the South American country competing Wednesday and Thursday during the pool play portion of the Rio Grand Slam will be Juliana Felisberta/Taiana Lima and Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini. The Rio Grand Slam is the second FIVB World Tour on Copacabana in the last six months after the South American country hosted an Olympic “test” event last September where Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins and Brazil’s Talita/Larissa topped the men’s and women’s podiums. The 2015 Olympic “test” event was the first FIVB World Tour event in Rio since 2004 when Copacabana hosted the season-ending international event in September. Copacabana was also the site of the 2005 FIVB under-21 World Championships where Samoilovs and Martins Plavins were the men’s gold medal winners.