2019 Review: History in the making as Snow Volleyball World Tour springs to life

 

Wagrain-Kleinarl centre court during a World Tour match

Lausanne, Switzerland, December 17, 2019 – The first official FIVB snow volleyball event took place in 2019 as the inaugural FIVB Snow Volleyball World Tour was launched in March, writing a new page in the history of this spectacular up-and-coming winter sport.

Having adopted the official rules of snow volleyball, transforming it from a two-a-side to a three-a-side discipline, the FIVB was ready for the next step in the development of the sport – bringing to life a World Tour involving teams from all five continents.

Snow volleyball players from all five continents together on the inaugural World Tour

In close cooperation with the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV), the first two World Tour stops were held in two consecutive weeks in breath-taking Alpine scenery on European territory – in Wagrain-Kleinarl, Austria and Kronplatz / Plan de Corones, Italy.

A lot of history has already been written in the Austrian winter resort of Wagrain-Kleinarl, considered the birthplace of professional snow volleyball, so it was only natural that the first-ever World Tour event took place there, at the iconic venue next to the Flying Mozart Mountain Station at an altitude of above 1,800 metres.

On the morning of March 28, 2019, the first whistle was blown and the historic first World Tour rally was played on centre court in Wagrain-Kleinarl. The first action was a women’s qualification match between Romania and Sweden, the southern Europeans winning it with a monster block.


With legendary Brazilian volleyball player Giba headlining the rosters, a total of 17 men’s and 16 women’s teams took part in the inaugural tournament. Over four days, there were some spectacular battles on the snow courts of Wagrain-Kleinarl and a number of surprising results were produced. Cameroon defeated Italy to finish fifth overall, which would be a sensational result in any winter sport. The women’s team of Argentina, a country that has never won any medals at the Olympic Winter Games, shocked Austria, Japan and both Czech teams to snatch a remarkable bronze.

Champions Russia (Olga Motrich, Anna Romashova, Olga Filina and Polina Lapteva), runners-up USA and bronze medalists Argentina stood proud on the first World Tour podium. An all-Austrian men’s final sparked snow volleyball fever among the home fans who packed the stands around the centre court. Austria 1, or Florian Schnetzer, Alexander Huber, Martin Streitfellner and Christoph Dressler, triumphed after a 2-0 (15-11, 15-10) win over compatriots Felix Friedl, Arwin Kopschar and Maximilian Trummer to claim the historic men’s title. Russia settled for bronze.


The following week in Kronplatz, the women’s podium was exactly the same (with Olga Kozhadey replacing Lapteva on the Russian line-up as the only exception). The champions defended their title with a 2-0 (15-13, 15-11) victory over the American team in the gold medal match.

On the men’s side, the team of USA 2 (Maddison McKibbin, Riley McKibbin and Troy Field) started from the very bottom of the qualification list and won seven matches in a row, including a spectacular 2-1 (9-15, 15-13, 22-20) victory over Russia in the final, to triumph with the gold medals. The bronze went to Poland.


The first World Tour stop outside Europe took place in Bariloche, Rio Negro in early August. Argentina not only followed up on the two amazing women’s bronze medals from Austria and Italy, but also built up to a total of four medals (two per gender) on home snow in the Andes.

Leo Aveiro, Fabrizio Mario Satriano, Sebastian Fernandez and Ramiro Nunyez, participating as Argentina 2, dethroned the American champions from the previous tournament in Italy with a thrilling 2-1 (10-15, 20-18, 15-11) comeback in the men’s gold medal match, after the team of Argentina 1 had secured the bronze. A brilliant Brazilian line-up, consisting of beach volleyball stars Juliana Felisberta Da Silva, Josemari Alves and Taina Silva Bigi, stopped Argentina 2 with a 2-0 (15-7, 15-10) shutout in the women’s final, while the ladies of Argentina 1 settled for yet another bronze.


Each of the three inaugural World Tour events featured representatives of all five Continental Confederations, showing how snow volleyball has evolved from a predominantly European discipline to a global sport, delivering a fresh change to the winter sports scene. The fact that teams from traditionally-summer sport countries, not exactly known for their skiers, skaters or ice hockey players, had the opportunity to compete as equals with the typical winter sports countries is a revolutionary concept and brings a fun and exciting new element to the winter sports landscape. Furthermore, the new three-a-side format gave snow volleyball more of a country-vs-country team sport feel, which is quite rare on the winter sports scene as well. Not only that, snow volleyball stepped forward as the first winter ball sport, with all the excitement that comes with that.

“The adrenalin was amazing!” exclaimed Giba at the end.


The journey for snow volleyball does not stop here. The FIVB is now looking ahead to 2020, and first up on the calendar is Snow Volleyball Festival. Taking part in the Lausanne en Jeux! Festival during the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, the Snow Volleyball Festival will be a fantastic opportunity for young people and families to try this cool new winter sport.

Snow Volleyball Festival will start from 10:00am CET on 18-19 January, and feature volleyball legends such as indoor Olympic gold medallists Giba and Vladimir Grbic, as well as beach volleyball Olympic champion Julius Brink, demonstrating their skills and offering snow volleyball masterclasses.

For more information on Snow Volleyball Festival, please click here.