Brazil is set to welcome three consecutive 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour events next month, starting with the Itapema Challenge, which will be held from April 6-9.
Olympic medallists highlight Itapema women’s entry list
Bárbara, Xue, Ludwig and Walsh Jennings will all be in action in the Challenge event in Brazil - watch on VBTV
Publicado 02:47, 23 Mar 2023
The tournament will have 48 women’s teams in action during the four days of competition. The 16 best-ranked duos start the event directly in the main draw while the remaining 32 tandems will get on the court on the first day of the tournament looking to claim one of the last eight main draw spots through the qualifier.
The women’s field in Itapema will be very diverse, with as many as 21 countries and four regional Confederations (Asia, South America, NORCECA and Europe) all represented. The list of participants includes 15 Olympians and four Olympic medallists.
These are the four Olympic medallists who will be in action in Itapema:
Bárbara Seixas (Brazil)
Seeded second in the main draw alongside partner Carol Salgado, the 35-year-old Bárbara is a silver medallist from the Rio 2016 Games. Their team will be one of the favorites to fight for gold in their home sand Itapema after collecting five medals in the inaugural Beach Pro Tour season – gold at the Tlaxcala and Doha Challenges, silver at the Jurmala and Gstaad Elite16s and bronze at the Uberlândia Elite16. The Brazilians are currently in third place in the FIVB World Rankings and were ninth at the 2023 Doha Elite16.
Chen Xue (China)
A bronze medallist at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Chinese star Xue is set to reappear in an international event for the first time since the Tokyo Games, in 2021. The 34-year-old blocker is among the most successful Asian players ever, having won gold at the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship and 16 other titles at the international level. A three-time Olympian, Xue will have a new partner by her side in 26-year-old Xinyi Xia, who also represented China in Tokyo and won silver and bronze (Dubai and Torquay) at the Challenge level in 2022, as well as one medal of each type in Futures events. The two are seeded 12th in the main draw.
Laura Ludwig (Germany)
A Rio 2016 Olympic champion, the 37-year-old Ludwig will be hoping to start her fifth Olympic campaign on the right foot in Brazil. One of the legends of the sport, the German superstar has also won the 2017 World Championships and 11 other gold medals in her 18-year international career. As was the case in the last Olympic quad, Ludwig will have by her side a former German volleyball national team star who transitioned to the sand in 28-year-old Louisa Lippmann. The two made a single appearance together in 2022 after Ludwig returned to the sand following the birth of her second son and ranked ninth in the Cape Town Elite16. They will begin the qualifier ranked 13th.
Kerri Walsh Jennings (USA)
The most decorated player in the history of the sport, Walsh Jennings is set to make a comeback at the age of 44 in Itapema after last getting on the court in an international event in June 2021. The legendary American has four Olympic medals (gold at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and bronze at Rio 2016) and three world titles as the highlights of her stunning career, which took her to the top of the podium 56 times at the international level. Walsh Jennings recently announced American volleyball star Logan Tom as her new partner, but will be Susannah ‘Zana’ Muno, a 26-year-old defender who took third in the Coolangatta Futures with Toni Rodriguez last year, during the event in Itapema. The Americans are the 17th-best-seeded team in the qualifier.