Agatha and Duda celebrate at the podium in the Itapema Open
Itapema, Brazil, May 20, 2018 – Seventh-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa triumphed in the $300,000 Itapema Open as the Brazilians won their second gold medal in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour at the Meia Praia Beach this Sunday.
Agatha, a silver medalist of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and Duda, the World Tour top rookie in the same year, were pushed by the support of the Brazilian fans who packed the center court in Itapema to post a 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) victory over Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré in the final. Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson claimed bronze.
It was the second World Tour gold medal for the 34-year-old veteran and the 19-year-old rising star, who had won the 2017 Rio Open, also in Brazilian soil, and the first medal for the team in the 2017-2018 season. They now have two golds, two silvers and seven bronzes in 14 tournaments together.
“It’s hard to explain how we’re feeling right now,” Agatha said. “The energy of the fans has been amazing during all week and we have our families, several friends and a lot of friends supporting us here, which makes it even more special. It’s awesome that we managed to win in our country again.”
Brazilian Duda Lisboa serves during the gold medal match
The Brazilians had finished in the top-10 of each of the four World Tour tournaments they have played in 2018, but the absence of a medal was becoming concerning for the team. The team’s return to the international podium for the first time since they won silver in the World Tour Finals last August was considered a relief by Duda.
“We were not happy at all with our results this year and to win this gold medal is a relief, especially with it happening in Brazil,” Duda added. “We were putting a lot of pressure on us because of the results and that was frustrating us a lot. But it’s gone now. We had a very solid week here and we hope it ignites us to win more medals in the next tournaments.”
For the Swiss, who are also starting their second season together, it was the second-ever medal after a silver in the Hague last year. The Europeans celebrated their best result in the season following a disappointing 17th-place finish in the Huntington Beach Open two weeks ago.
“It wasn’t our best performance in the final and they did a very good job, but we can definitely be happy about this result,” Vergé-Depré said. “Two weeks ago we weren’t happy about our performances, but we managed to get this far here in Itapema, where we loved to play. It gives us some self-confidence and I think we’ll be able to enjoy more ourselves in the court and don’t be under pressure.”
First World Tour medal for Wilkerson
Canada's Brandie Wilkerson fights with Brazil's Carol Solberg for a point
In the bronze medal match, Bansley and Wilkerson, who have played in 13 World Tour tournaments since the end of 2016, reached their first podium together as they defeated Brazilians Carol Solberg and Maria Elisa Antonelli in three sets (21-18, 18-21, 15-11).
“I think it came down to our side out and just settling down with our pass and set,” Bansley commented. “We were getting opportunities on our defense, so we just had to stay steady on our side out. I’m proud about how we played all week. It’s a special medal for our team and hopefully there’s more to come.”
It was also the first-ever World Tour medal for the 25-year-old Wilkerson, who started competing internationally in 2014 and has played in 27 FIVB events since them.
“This will definitely be a particularly special tournament for me,” the left-handed blocker said. “I’m so lucky to play with someone like Heather and I think we deserved it as a team because we put up so much work. I’m so proud of this start for us. I love Brazil, I loved the venue and the event, so this will be one I will never forget.”