Brno, Czech Republic. The 2020 edition of #EuroBeachVolleyU20 reached its climax on Sunday with the semis and medal matches. Sweden’s Jonatan Hellvig and David Åhman lived up to everyone’s expectations to secure the men’s title without dropping a single set in the tournament, with Latvia’s Varvara Brailko and Anete Namike emerging as the eventual winners of the women’s competition.
The players still in the competition could have a bit of a longer sleep than in the previous days, but they obviously felt some excitement too as they were about to play for the medals. In the first women’s semi-final, Brailko and Namike defeated the Ukrainian girls Sofiia Rylova/Yeva Serdiuk in two sets, but especially the first one was a very close affair (24-22, 21-16). The second semi-final was even tighter, with Swiss tandem Annik Stähli/Menia Bentele coming from behind to edge their Dutch opponents Nadine Everaert and Wies Bekhuis 19-21, 21-14, 15-8.
The young girls from the Netherlands could not regroup after this setback and lost the bronze medal match to Rylova and Serdiuk 18-21, 16-21. Before a large crowd, Brailko and Namike claimed the final act of the tournament, in what is their first major international success after securing fourth place at the World Tour 1-Star tournament in Ljubljana earlier this summer. “We have no words. This is just amazing. We took it match after match and tried to do our best. We still cannot believe it! It feels amazing to be the European champions!” said the Latvians after their 21-15, 21-17 victory over Stähli and Bentele.
In only a couple of days, Brailko and Namike will test their skills at the senior level, playing EuroBeachVolley on home sand in Jurmala, where they contest a pool featuring elite teams such as Marketa Slukova/Barbora Hermannova of the Czech Republic and Italy’s Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth.
As expected, the biggest favourites of the men’s competition, Hellvig and Åhman, made it to the finals. They beat the Cypriot pair Sotiris Siapanis/Odysseas Savvides in two sets (21-10, 21-17) in the semis, where the German pair Momme Lorenz/Simon Pfretzschner had to fight much harder to have the upper hand in their match with Italy’s Gianluca Dal Corso/Marco Viscovich (21-19, 23-21).
The Italians eventually claimed the bronze medal game, thus ending the dreams of the team representing Cyprus to secure what would have been a truly historic medal for the Mediterranean island.
The Germans suffered a little injury in the early stages of the gold medal match, played in a great atmosphere and with many cheering fans in attendance. However, the Swedes proved too strong (21-13, 21-17) and they claimed their second continental crown in Brno after winning the U18 title two years ago at the very same venue. “It was a super fun game. It is great to play again in front of the crowd after such a long time. We enjoyed Brno, it was super to play and win here. It is one of our greatest achievements, and this victory means a lot to us,” said the 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medal winners and newly crowned U20 European champions.
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