Russian beach volley duo through to London Olympics

Russia's Evgenia Ukolova, left, and Ekaterina Khomyakova in the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup women's final match against Netherlands (RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf)
The Russian women's beach volleyball team have recently qualified for the Olympic Games, booking their place by topping Continental Cup favorites the Netherlands in Moscow.

­This competition was a real chance for Russia to repeat their 2008 achievement. After a hard fought 3-2 win over Switzerland in the semis, they faced the Dutch in the final with a place at the Olympics at stake.

The best-of-five contest started wobbly for Russia's first tandem team. Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova failed to break down Holland’s duo of Madelein Meppelink and Sophie van Gestel and Team Russia went down 1-0.

But that didn’t stop Russia from making full use of their home advantage. The country’s second tandem – Evgenia Ukolova and Ekaterina Khomyakova – made light work of their two games, beating both Dutch teams 2-0 and 2-1.

With advantage now firmly with the home team – and a buoyant crowd behind their backs – Vasina and Vozakova rectified their earlier slip up to beat Holland’s weaker duo 21-12.

Not only was it a fine win over the tournament favorites, it was also sweet revenge for Team Russia, having lost out to the Netherlands back in the Zoning stage of the competition in 2011.

But the girls were simply happy to have taken first place.

“I simply cannot put our joy into words. We’re so happy. I don’t know what else to say,” Ekaterina Khomyakova told RT.

“Most of all, I would like to say thanks to all our fans. It’s a big advantage to be playing at home and I’m so pleased with all the support. It definitely helped us win,”
Evgenia Ukolova added.

In the battle for bronze, Switzerland saw off Italy 3-1, ensuring they will get another crack at Olympic qualification.

“I think we still have a chance to get a place at the Olympic Games. We have to fight hard, like here, it’s normal. If we play well and good, there’s always a chance,”
Swiss Tanja Goricanec said.

The Continental Cup’s gold means Russia have secured themselves a place on the plane to this summer’s Olympics.

But the Netherlands, as well as Switzerland, could still join them, but only if they can win the FIVB qualification tournament that will be held in Moscow.

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