Qatar’s lead pair Jefferson Santos Pereira and Cherif Younousse will seek to use the home conditions to their advantage as the Qatar Open, the third and last single-gender event on the FIVB’s 2016 Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar, begins with qualifiers on Monday.
The Qatar Beach Volleyball Academy courts have got the final touches under the supervision of the QVA President Khalid Ali al Mawlawi and the first matches will come off at 4 pm.
The final is scheduled on April 8. The event is likely to offer plenty of thrills as the world’s best will go head to head for precious points in the race for the Rio Olympic Games.
Pereira and Younousse started the year on a bright note and secured their breakthrough gold medal at the Kish Island Open in Iran in February with a superb 21-13 14-21 15-12 victory over Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Yarzutkin.
The Qatari duo, eighth seeds, also reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Volleyball Confederation Asian Championship last week, where suffered a straight 16-21, 14-21 loss to Australia’s Bo Soderberg and Cole Durant.
But both Pereira and Younousse, after managing a quarter-final finish at the World Championship in the Netherlands last year, are shaping well on the tough tour. They will be more than keen to have a best possible finish in a bid to improve their prospects for the upcoming Olympics.
The Qatar Open is part of the Road to Rio that lasts until June 13, with FIVB World Tour events counting towards the Olympic ranking in order to determine 15 of the 24 teams that will take part in the Olympics.
“It’s a big year for us and we’re keen to garner as many points as possible. I’m really optimistic as we’ve had some great results against strong opponents this season,” said Pereira, who has been gelling well with Younousse, who is five years younger than him.
Last year, both Pereira and Younousse had bowed out of the second round but with more experience of playing together, they would be certainly looking to go much beyond than the second round this time around.
To qualify for the Olympics, a team must compete together in at least 12 FIVB World Tour events and/or recognised Continental championships from January 2015 through June 13, 2016. A team’s best 12 finishes will be counted towards determining the pair’s ranking. A maximum of two teams per country is allowed to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Both Pereira and Younousse have played in 11 events till now. The 2016 Qatar Open is their 12th competition before they will be eligible to be part of the race to Rio Olympics.
Five pairs for each gender’s Olympic competition will qualify via Continental Cup action where each FIVB confederation is guaranteed a berth in the Rio 2016 Summer Games. The last qualifying event will be July 6-10 when Russia host the FIVB World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sochi. The top two tandems from each gender from the Continental Cup qualifier will earn the last two pairs in the 24-team Olympic competitions.
Qatar’s second pair consists of Julio Cesar Do Nascimento and Ahmed Tijan, who are seeded 24th. They have played only in three events together. Tijan and Nascimento paired up after Assam Ahmed Mahmoud pulled out as he is said to be focusing on his indoor volleyball career. The Al Ahli player and Tijan were coming up nicely, after getting some good results at the regional and Asian Tour level. Hopefully, they will now play longer and try to get more results.
The two previous Qatar Opens were won by German teams – Tim Holler and Jonas Schroder in 2014 and Markus Bockermann and Lars Fluggen in 2015 – and Bockermann and Fluggen will be back to defend their gold that they won in November 2015 in the earlier portion of the 2015-16 World Tour calendar.
Bockermann and Fluggen will face stiff competition to defend their title though. The USA will be represented by Jacob Gibb and Casey Patterson, who are ranked fifth in the FIVB Olympic Rankings and 2015 silver medallists Ty Bourne and John Hyden.
Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor will be confident mood after they won their first World Tour golds at the Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam. The pair won FIVB World Championships gold at U19, U21 and U23 and gold in Rio served noticed that they are beginning to fulfil their potential.
Italy also send two strong pairs; Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Carambula showed that they are approaching their best by finishing fourth at the Vitoria Open.
London 2012 Olympians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo will be fighting hard for Olympic points to ensure they take part at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and served notice that they are nearing their top form by winning silver at the Vitoria Open at the end of March.