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2019 world champion Sarah Pavan is getting closer to a third Olympic appearance

2019 world champion Sarah Pavan is getting closer to a third Olympic appearance

Canada’s Sarah Pavan & Molly McBain are now the holders of the last qualifying spot for Paris 2024 in the provisional women’s Olympic Ranking, taking it away from Finland’s Taru Lahti-Liukkonen & Niina Ahtiainen for the time being. That’s the most tangible change in the race for Olympic tickets after last week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Xiamen Challenge in China. Among the two winners, Karla Borger & Sandra Ittlinger are still out and Marco Grimalt & Esteban Grimalt are still in.

Pavan & McBain did not get past the eighthfinals in Xiamen, but they still had a better result than Lahti & Ahtiainen, who did not advance from the pool. And while the Canadians netted 160 points towards the Olympic Ranking, the Finns did not pocket any new points and fell 120 points behind Pavan & McBain. Spain’s Liliana Fernаndez & Paula Soria capitalized on their quarterfinal finish in China to add 200 points to their total and also surpassed Lahti & Ahtiainen in the chart to take the highest position below the cut-off, 60 points behind the North Americans.

Of course, the fact that there was a German-Swiss clash in the women’s final prompts us to take another look at the heated domestic races for those two nations’ Olympic quota. Germany’s Borger & Ittlinger grabbed the Xiamen gold, but that was not enough to catch up with any of the other two German teams in contention. They added 440 new points to their total, but are still 120 behind Louisa Lippmann & Laura Ludwig, who finished their Xiamen campaign in the quarterfinals to pocket 380 points, and another 120 points behind Cinja Tillmann & Svenja Muller, who did not compete in China last week.

Unlike Borger & Ittlinger, their final opponents Joana Mader & Anouk Verge-Depre managed to take over one of Switzerland’s qualifying spots in the Olympic Ranking. They netted 300 of the points that came with their silver and overtook the team of Anouk’s younger sister Zoe Verge-Depre with Esmee Bobner. The latter did not get past the Xiamen eighthfinals, did not gain any new points and dropped to third rank among the Swiss duos, 80 points below Mader & Verge-Depre and another 1,310 points below Nina Brunner & Tanja Huberli.

As far as the FIVB World Ranking, the expiration of the Uberlandia Elite16 points from last year actually had more significant impact on the chart than the new points gained in Xiamen. It caused some important changes in the top 10, with reigning world champions Sara Hughes & Kelly Cheng of the United States dropping two positions down to number five, Brunner & Huberli sliding down from number six to number seven and Latvia’s Anastasija Samoilova & Tina Graudina falling two spots down and out of the top 10, into number 11.

The same applies to the men’s World Ranking as well. Reigning world champions Ondrej Perusic & David Schweiner of Czechia descended from number three to number five, Poland’s Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak lost a lot of ground, diving from number eight to number 15, while the distance between the top two, Sweden’s David Ahman & Jonatan Hellvig and Norway’s Anders Mol & Christian Sorum, more than doubled, surging from 300 to 640 points.

Back to the race for Olympic tickets, however, Chile’s Grimalt & Grimalt won the Xiamen gold to stay within the qualifying area. They are still the last team above the cut-off for Paris, but the distance between them and the next contender actually narrowed. The Chilean cousins netted 400 of the 800 points that came with their first place in China, while Cuba’s Noslen Diaz & Jorge Alayo, who registered a ninth-place finish, added the entire 460 earned points to their total and rose to within just 40 points from the Grimalts. The Cubans have one more tournament to play to reach the required minimum of 12 qualifying events and that means one more “free” tournament, in which they will net the entire amount of points earned.

Xiamen silver medallists Youssef Krou & Arnaud Gauthier-Rat are still far below the general cut-off in the Olympic Ranking, but as representatives of the Paris 2024 host nation they are in competition with the other French teams for the one berth granted to their country. With their result in China, Krou & Gauthier-Rat consolidated their status as the highest-ranked French pair, widening the distance to Julien Lyneel & Remi Bassereau to 860 points and to Arthur Canet & Teo Rotar to 920 points. Before Xiamen, the three French duos were spread within a range of only 160 points.

Finishing fourth at the Xiamen Challenge was also important for Chase Budinger & Miles Evans, who are part of a three-way race for two American tickets to Paris. They are still the lowest ranked among the three contenders, but managed to narrow the gap to the second highest Trevor Crabb & Theodore Brunner from 620 down to 400.