Espinho, Portugal, July 8, 2018 – Fourth-seeded Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs emerged victorious from a nail-biting final of the Espinho four-star stop on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. The Latvian standouts managed to secure their 10th gold on the Tour as a team, improving their overall record to 21 medals (five silver and six bronze).
Ricardo Alex Costa Santos and Gustavo Albrecht Carvalhaes, who made an incredible run from the country quota matches on Wednesday all the way to the gold medal final, gave the Latvians a fantastic match, but had to settle for silver. For 43-year-old Ricardo and 24-year-old Guto this was only the second tournament together.
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Aspiring young Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler fought their way to a spot on the podium and claimed their first ever medal on the World Tour.
The men’s podium at Espinho
In the first set of the gold medal game, Smedins and Samoilovs established domination, opened up a 13-8 gap and cruised on to close it with a power shot by Smedins. Ricardo and Guto responded with a five-point lead in the second set. The Latvians fought back, but never managed to catch up. In a dramatic tie-breaker, Smedins and Samoilovs reached out for the win with a 13-10 lead, but the Brazilians responded with four points in a row to prompt an epic ending. Both teams battled on, but failed to convert some match points. Finally a monster block by Smedins put an end to it all at 2-1 (21-13, 19-21, 22-20).
“It was really tough, but we gave it all we got. We kept fighting,” Samoilovs said after the final.
“We just have to keep playing until the end - that was the main key. Everyone can make mistakes. And in this heat it is not easy to play. It was a crazy game,” Smedins added.
“This was an amazing result for us. This is our second tournament and the second place is a great place to finish. We are very happy with this tournament. Yes, we are a little bit disappointed, because we wasted so many match points, but we are more happy than we are disappointed,” Guto stated. “It is so amazing to play with Ricardo. He teaches me many things and his experience makes a big difference.”
Thole and Wickler could not hold on to an early 7-3 lead they had in the first set of the bronze medal match against second-seeded Vitor Goncalves Felipe and Evandro Goncalves Oliveira Junior. The Brazilians caught up at 10-10 and broke away to win the set. The Germans opened a 7-3 gap in the second set as well, but this time kept extending it, building nicely towards a landslide finish. Thole and Wickler stormed into the decider with a 4-1 lead and, playing both efficiently and spectacularly, just kept on going to hammer out a 2-1 (17-21, 21-12, 15-11) victory, with Wickler nailing the last ball of the match.
“It was a hard fight today. Now we will go into the ocean and we will be there for some time,” was all Wickler could say after winning the medal.
“We had three really hard weeks, always starting from qualifications and then competing in the main draw,. We played so many three-setters these days,” Thole commented. “To be able to finish the week with this result is unbelievable!”
Thole and Wickler started really well in their semifinal against Smedins and Samoilovs, taking an early 7-4 lead, and cruised on to win the first set. In the second set, the Latvians broke away with a 7-4 lead and never looked back. Their experience paid off, they managed to adjust to the game of the young Germans and really dominated in the tie-breaker. Smedins and Samoilovs ran off with a 9-3 advantage, practically forcing an early surrender of Thole and Wickler, and comfortably closed the match at 2-1 (15-21, 21-16, 15-8).
The earlier semifinal looked more like a mind game than a physical sport. Efficiently supported by his younger teammate Guto, well-seasoned Ricardo was in control of what was happening on the court against compatriots Vitor Felipe and Evandro. His experience made the difference in the match. Ricardo and Guto quickly established domination with a 9-4 lead in the first set and cruised on to a 21-15 win, shaped up by Ricardo’s cross-court spike for the last point. He continued to outsmart the opponents in the second set and crowned his performance with an elegant hit off Evandro’s block to close the match at 21-17.