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Beach volley stars flock to Moscow to gear up before London Olympics

Moscow has hosted the beach volleyball World Tour for the fifth consecutive year. The event was a special one, though, offering athletes one of the last opportunities to qualify for the London Olympics.

The Moscow Grand Slam 2012 saw volleyball's brightest stars both on and off the court. Sculptures of two-time world indoor champion Russia's Ekaterina Gamova, and one of the most-decorated beach volleyball players, Emanuel Rego, greeted fans outside the venue. The great Brazilian also showed off his skills inside the venue built in Moscow's Victory Park.

In the men's final, Rego and team-mate Alison Cerutti faced old rivals, Reindeer Nommerdor and Richard Schuil. The reigning world champions were considered favorites against the top-seeded Dutch duo, who they beat on four previous occasions.

Rego and Cerutti got off to a very confident start, securing the first set with relative ease, 21-16. However, the second saw much tougher competition – four set points for the Dutchmen, and four match points for the Brazilians, before a golden attempt by Rego sealed the match 29-27.

“It was a great tournament, the best teams in the world have been competing here during the week. It was a good test for us ahead of the Olympics and winning the Moscow Grand Slam was very important as it gives extra confidence,” said Rego.

Meanwhile, in the women's final it was China's Chen Xue and Xi Chang, who claimed their third title in the Russian capital. The Chinese beat last year's champions, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the USA, taking both sets with the same score of 21-14.

Moscow proved to be a lucky location for the Chinese couple, although the way to their biggest goal – an Olympic gold medal – leads to London. Four years ago in Beijing they were third.

Meanwhile, there will still be some Olympic places at stake in Moscow for European teams. From June 28 to July 1 the Russian capital will host the Continental Cup final.