2019-08-10 20:45:00 CEST
Graudina and Kravcenoka gave their country its second-ever continental title
There’s clearly something about Latvia’s women’s beach volleyball, the European Championships and Russia. After all, the Northern European country went to win its second continental title in 2019 by the hands of Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka at the Luzhniki complex, in Moscow, exactly ten years after Inese Jursone and Inguna Minusa claimed the nation’s first European gold medal in Sochi.
The 21-year-old Graudina, the World Tour’s Top Rookie in 2018, and the 22-year-old Kravcenoka sealed a perfect week at the Russian capital which saw them win all of their seven matches, including five tie-breakers, with a 22-20, 21-19 gold medal match victory over Poland’s Kinga Wojtasik and Katarzyna Kociolek.
“It feels like we accomplished a hard job,” Graudina reflected. “At this moment we are still tired, but tomorrow or next week it will really hit us - we are European Champions.”
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Despite of their young ages, the Latvians, who were ninth at the World Championships, displayed cold blood to come back from an 18-20 deficit in the final match to take the first set and pave the way for a two-set victory over the Polish duo.
Graudina and Kravcenoka, who won the Under-22 European title back in 2016, are now the senior continental champions despite entering the tournament as the 20th-seeded tandem.
“Before coming to Moscow, I told my family our goal was to play in the final,” Kravcenoka added. “They laughed a bit, but obviously told that they would support us and believe in us. Match after match we won and we started to believe ourselves even more.”
Veteran Spanish Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo secured bronze, their second European Championships medal after taking silver in Klagenfurt in 2013, with a three-set (13-21, 21-15, 21-19) triumph over Swiss stars Joana Hedrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré after finishing fourth and going home empty-handed last season.
“We really wanted this medal,” Elsa said. “In the end, we are just very happy that we made it. We will have a lot of good memories from Moscow, but we still need to learn a lot. The semifinal was also a very tough match, we need to learn our lessons and to keep growing as a team.”
The teams will all remain in the Russian capital for another week as it will also host a World Tour four-star tournament from August 12-18.
Graudina/Kravcenoka and Liliana/Elsa prevailed in the Qualification Tournament in China
Italians Lupo/Nicolai and Latvians Plavins/Tocs have qualified to next year’s Summer Games
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