Memorable Continental Cup Final serves its purpose


Article Tue, Jun 29 2021
Author: Nikolay Markov
Nikolay Markov

The third edition of the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup has finished. It served its main purpose, to issue the last two European tickets, one per gender, to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic beach volleyball competition, and awarded each of the winning national teams, the women of the Netherlands and the men of Switzerland, a spot each at the Games next month.

Dutch women and Swiss men celebrate with the Daruma dolls

On the day after the end of the Continental Cup Final, which took place last week at Scheveningen Beach in the Hague on the Dutch North Sea coast, the two women’s pairs of the Netherlands played a crucial trial match against each other. Raisa Schoon & Katja Stam produced an emphatic 2-0 (21-11, 21-13) shutout of compatriots and teammates Marleen Ramond-van Iersel & Pleun Ypma to claim the Tokyo ticket.

As far as the Swiss men are concerned, it will probably be their highest ranked pair, Adrian Heidrich & Mirco Gerson, to be selected by their national federation for Tokyo, but Swiss Volley and Swiss Olympic are set to make the official announcement on July 1.

The officially denominated CEV Continental Cup 2018-2020 actually started in 2019 and finished in 2021. The first phase took place in May and June 2019, with 32 men’s and 30 women’s national teams competing at eight different venues across Europe. The second phase was supposed to take place a year later, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed both the Continental Cup and the Olympic Games itself to 2021. So from May 6 through 9, 24 teams per gender competed in pools of eight in Baden, Izmir and Madrid hoping to advance to June’s Final.

Two of the countries that qualified for the men’s Final, Italy and Poland, and two that qualified for the women’s Final, Germany and Switzerland, had to give up their spots to lower-placed candidates since they already had the maximum of two pairs per country qualified through the Olympic ranking.

So, a total of 128 athletes, making up 16 women’s and 16 men’s national teams and representing 23 different CEV member nations took part in the Continental Cup Final last week. Nine of them, Austria, Czechia, Estonia, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine, had both their national teams, women’s and men’s, competing in the Hague.

The event was held over four competition days, starting from the eighthfinals on June 23 and ending with the finals on June 26. Each country-vs-country tie was played in a best-of-three matches (rubbers) format. A golden match would decide the winner if the score after the first two rubbers was tied at one win each.

The 15 women’s ties offered a total of 36 rubbers, including six golden matches. 11 of them went to three sets. In the men’s competition, eight golden matches were played. 12 of the 38 rubbers were decided in tie-breakers.

Hosts Netherlands survived through the last competition day in both genders, but only their women managed to book an Olympic spot after defeating Russia in the final, with Schoon & Stam snatching a 2-1 (21-15, 15-21, 15-11) golden match victory over Mariia Bocharova & Maria Voronina.

A golden match decided the men’s final too. Switzerland’s Heidrich & Gerson disappointed the Dutch crowd with a 2-1 (21-16, 15-21, 15-12) win over home favourites Christiaan Varenhorst & Ruben Penninga. The latter was a last-minute replacement for headliner Steven van de Velde, who had to sit out the tournament at Scheveningen because of an injury.

The event served its other purpose as well, that is to grow the popularity of beach volleyball by offering a unique for the sport country-vs-country format.

All matches of the Continental Cup Final were streamed live either on the CEV YouTube channel or on EuroVolleyTV. The event reached international TV audiences as well. Live coverage was offered to viewers in 18 different countries in Europe and Asia.