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2016-04-18 17:48:00 CET

Austrian outsiders talk of the town in Xiamen

Unfancied Stefanie Schwaiger and Barbara Hansel seal silver in China

Austrian heroes Stefanie Schwaiger and Barbara Hansel celebrate in China. Photo credit: FIVB.Austrian heroes Stefanie Schwaiger and Barbara Hansel celebrate in China. Photo credit: FIVB.

Nobody gave Stefanie Schwaiger and Barbara Hansel a chance in the Xiamen Open.

The Austrian underdogs were 29th seeds and had to qualify – but they had the last laugh last week when they scooped a silver medal after a scintillating run to the final.

In the space of four unbelievable days Schwaiger and Hansel beat the first, second AND fourth seeds and did their Olympics qualifications prospects the power of good with a string of outstanding results.

But it could have been a different story for the pair in their very first match. In their qualification tie they were a set down to Serbians Milena Matic and Marija Milosevic but bounced back to win 2-1. And that’s where the story began!

A second shock comeback win came in their first pool stage match when they fell behind to Italian second seeds Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth but hit back to triumph 2-1.

They made it beyond the pool stage despite one defeat but it was in the knockout stages that the party really started!

In the quarter-finals the girls met German second seeds Karla Borger and Britta Büthe and came through a classic three-set tie to win 2-1, which included winning an epic first set 32-30.

That victory meant a semi-final place. The only problem was that it was against top seeds and tournament favorites Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross.

Walsh Jennings and Ross had been imperious form all week – dropping just one set in five games – and it looked nailed on that it would be another straight-forward victory for the American duo after a one-sided first set that they powered to win 21-9.

However, the Austrian spirit never wavered after such a slow start and Schwaiger and Hansel dug deep to come back and seal an incredible victory with breathtaking performances in back-to-back sets.

That win guaranteed them a medal but Swiss pair Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Vergé-Dépré were too strong in the final and the Austrians had to settle for ‘only’ silver…not bad for 29th-seed outsiders, eh?!

Schwaiger summed up their success perfectly: “We always believed in ourselves. We have trained well and we have been rewarded for our work.”

You sure have Stefanie! Congratulations to you both and here’s to another week of success this week at the Fuzhou Open!

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