2019-09-22 15:24:00 CET
Graudina/Kravcenoka and Liliana/Elsa prevailed in the Qualification Tournament in China
Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka had warned us – winning the European Championships last month was just the beginning. The Latvians were true to their words and, alongside Spanish Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo, secured an early Olympic berth to the Tokyo 2020 Games at the Qualification Tournament in Haiyang, China.
The 21-year-old Graudina and the 22-year-old Kravcenoka had to bring their best game in the deciding match of the event as they were down 12-7 to Czech starts Marketa Sluková and Barbora Hermannová in the third set, but still figured out a way to turn things around and win 21-17, 15-21, 17-15.
Now, just a month after winning the continental title in Moscow, the rising stars are set to become the first Latvian women to play in a beach volleyball Olympic tournament in ten months at the Japanese capital.
“Winning the European championships was special and unexpected,” Graudina said. “But this win today ranks as a great achievement as we become the first women's team from our country to qualify for the beach volleyball competition at the Olympics. I am so proud of Anastasija as her serving got us back to even in the third set. And yes, like the European championships, this win was also unexpected.”
Qualifying also meant a lot to Liliana and Elsa, the longest-lasting women’s partnership in international volleyball currently. The veterans, who took ninth at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games and have played in 120 international events together, are set to an Olympic return after their come-from-behind 18-21, 21-17, 15-10 triumph over Germany’s Chantal Laboureur and Sandra Ittlinger.
Liliana, who returned to the sport in 2018 after giving birth to her first son, Saul, celebrated the early qualification.
“There were a lot of matches to play again very tough teams,” she reflected. “We were ranked among the best on the provisional list for Tokyo but securing the berth to next summer's Olympics is great. What a relief and we can relax now for a few months before getting ready for Tokyo.”
Besides of the Latvians and the Spanish, are also guaranteed at the Tokyo 2020 Games Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melisssa Humana-Paredes, who won this year’s World Championships, and host country Japan, which is yet to nominate its team.
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