2019-05-28 10:02:00 CEST

Onwards to Ostrava

There’s no rest for the wicked as the beach elite head to Ostrava in the Czech Republic for the next four-star event on the FIVB World Tour calendar

Marketa Sluková and Barbora Hermannová celebrate winning on home sand in Ostrava last seasonMarketa Sluková and Barbora Hermannová celebrate winning on home sand in Ostrava last season

What’s the deal?

It’s now just a month until the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships Hamburg 2019 presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord kicks off, but there’s plenty more volleyball to cram in before the summer’s biggest tournament gets under way.

Just days after a number of teams competed in the four-star event in Jinjiang, China, it’s back to Europe for another four-star, this time in the Czech city of Ostrava. 150,000 US Dollars per gender is up for grabs to claim a share of, as well as, of course, important ranking points towards Olympic qualification.

Action starts with qualification on Wednesday with the main draw bursting into life on Thursday featuring a host – if not all – of the best beach volleyball players in the world.

World Champs warm-up

While this is anything but a simple ‘warm-up’ (this is, and will be, super competitive), it’s important to note that 43 of the 48 teams already fixed in the Ostrava main draw are competing in the Hamburg World Championships.

That number could increase following country quota and qualification matches, with a further 18 teams also heading for Hamburg involved in these matches. Reigning World Champion Andre Loyola will be involved in a country quota battle, while another, Laura Ludwig, is already assured of a spot in qualification.

Doing it the hard way

You’ve got to feel for Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat. Days after winning their first gold medal together in Jinjiang, they make the long journey to Ostrava to compete in the country quota.

The US pair have been in sensational form since joining forces, as seen last week in China. In that tournament they scrapped to get out of qualification, just like they did in Itapema, where they finished fifth. They won silver in Kuala Lumpur before that, got out of qualification in Xiamen to post a ninth in late April and in March won bronze in Sydney.

If there were two players that aspiring youngsters need to look up to for inspiration then look no further than Kerri and Brooke right now.

Vikings on a hat-trick

The 2019 season is already shaping up to be one to remember for Norwegians starlets Anders Mol and Christian Sørum.

The Beachvolley Vikings made it two gold medals on the spin with victory in Jinjiang to add to their first place in Itapema the week before. The duo, who swept all before them last year, including two Majors, the World Tour Finals and the European Championships, aim to make it three in a row in Ostrava.

Twelve months ago, the pair posted their worst result of the season in Ostrava, losing in the pool play after two defeats. And you wouldn’t bet against them putting that right this week.

Anders Mol and Christian Sørum have won their last two tournaments - but finished 25th in Ostrava 12 months agoAnders Mol and Christian Sørum have won their last two tournaments - but finished 25th in Ostrava 12 months ago

Home favorites

Talking of last season, we’ve yet to talk about the Czech Republic stars and World Champs number two seeds Marketa Sluková and Barbora Hermannová, the home heroes that won gold here on home sand in 2018.

Maki and Bara won in Vienna last season and were World Tour Finals runners-up, and the duo have started this season well, winning silver in Xiamen and then taking the gold medal in Kuala Lumpur – beating Walsh Jennings and Sweat in the final.

The pair are one of a number of Czech teams out to wow the home crowd, including World Champs-bound men Ondrej Perusic and David Schweiner, who finished fourth in Ostrava 12 months ago, agonizingly missing out on a medal.

Last season’s men’s gold medal went the way of Spaniards Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera and the experienced pair return to Ostrava to defend their title.

Where can I watch?

The FIVB YouTube channel is your best bet – they will be streaming all the semi-finals and medal matches. For more information on the tournament, check out their very reliable and informative website.

What else is going on?

It’s not just in Ostrava that there’s World Tour action happening. There’s a women’s only two-star event happening in Nantong, China. Two teams heading to the World Championships are competing – Leonie Kortzinger and Sarah Schneider of Germany, and Cubans Mailen Deliz Tamayo and Leila Ortega.

And finally….

When you’re checking out the players’ social media during the Ostrava event, don’t forget to be suitable impressed by the venue. As locations go, it’s pretty unique. Dolní oblast Vítkovice, is a national site of industrial heritage, including an extensive area of ironworks.

The unique backdrop to the center court at Ostrava. Photo: FIVBThe unique backdrop to the center court at Ostrava. Photo: FIVB

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