The 2022 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Finals have just ended, but the top teams in international beach volleyball will be back in action this week when the Qatari capital Doha hosts the opening event of the 2023 season.
Doha marks start of 2023 Beach Pro Tour
The Elite16 event in Qatar will also award the first Olympic ranking points for Paris 2024
Publicado 09:00, 31 Jan 2023
The Elite16 tournament at the Aspire Park sports complex from Wednesday to Sunday will mark the start of the second season of the Beach Pro Tour after a successful 2022 edition. It will feature the best players in the world in intense competition.
The five-day tournament will reunite 56 teams - 28 men's and 28 women's – and it will also mark the start of the race to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Although the qualification period officially started on January 1, the Doha Elite16 event is the first at which teams from around the world will be able to add points to their Olympic rankings.
At the end of the qualification period, on June 9, 2024, the 17 best-ranked men’s and women’s teams in the Olympic rankings will qualify for the Games (joining a team from the host country, the winners of the 2023 Beach Volleyball World Championships, and five teams from the five Continental Olympic tournaments). A good result in Doha will certainly provide a valuable head start for the teams that can make deep runs in this week’s tournament.
The level of play to be expected at the Doha Elite16 will certainly be high, as all 20 teams – ten men's and ten women's – that competed at the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals will take part in the event, where they will be joined by several other heavyweights of international beach volleyball.
The women’s tournament will have 14 countries represented among the 28 teams set to compete. Leading the way are 2022 Beach Pro Tour champions Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes of the United States and reigning world champions Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa and Ana Patricia Ramos of Brazil. Other teams to look out for include Australian Tokyo 2020 silver medallists Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar.
“We’re really excited to start Olympic qualification,” Mariafe commented. “It’s going to be a long season, but it’s finally here. Playing in the Beach Pro Tour Finals has been a very good preparation. We haven’t been able to play or practice with most of the top teams in the world over the last few months, so it has been really good for us.”
Another attraction of the Elite16 tournament held in the Qatari capital will be the first international appearance of Canadian Olympians Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes as partners. The two decided to join forces in the final portion of 2022 and will be tested at the highest level of the sport for the first time this week in Doha, entering the tournament as the seventh-seeded women’s duo.
Some familiar faces will also be in action in Wednesday’s qualifier, including Brazilian and three-time Olympian Talita Antunes, who will pair with Thamela Coradello, German Olympians Julia Sude and Karla Borger, who will be with their new partners Isabel Schneider and Sandra Ittlinger, and Americans Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss, who competed at the 2022 Finals.
On the men’s side, 20 countries will be represented in the tournament. Reigning Olympic and world champions and 2022 Beach Pro Tour champions Anders Mol and Christian Sørum of Norway and home fan favorites Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan are among the top teams set to compete in Doha this week.
“The level in international beach volleyball is so high now that we’re not thinking about Olympic qualification as a separate thing,” said Paolo Nicolai, the Italian Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist. “Every match is really going to make a difference so we’ll try and focus on one at a time and get the best results we can. That’s what my experience tells me. There are 17 spots in the Olympic Ranking and several teams that have what it takes to claim them, so we’ll see where we end up.”
Italians Adrian Carambula and Alex Ranghieri, who competed in the Finals last week, are the top-ranked team in the qualifier. Another veteran who will need to compete for a main draw spot is Latvian Martins Plavins. The 37-year-old defender missed most of last season due to injury and will pair with Mihails Samoilovs, the younger brother of his former partner Aleksandrs Samoilovs.
The event begins on Wednesday with 16 men’s and women’s competing for the last four main draw spots in each gender. The main phase of the tournament runs from Thursday to Sunday, when the winners in both genders will be determined.