Challenge - Itapema, BRA - 2023 - Beach Pro Tour 2023 season - News


German superstar Laura Ludwig will be on the qualifier with partner Louisa Lippmann

There will be no shortage of star power in the qualifier of the 2023 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge, which will open the four-day event in Brazil on Thursday, with a pair of Olympic champions set to compete among the 128 players that will be in action at the Meia Praia.

Gold medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 37-year-olds Laura Ludwig of Germany and Alison Cerutti of Brazil will make their first appearances in the 2023 Beach Pro Tour season and hope to end the day among the eight teams in each gender that will earn of the right of playing in Friday’s main draw in Brazil.

  • Watch the Beach Pro Tour Itapema Challenge live or on demand on VBTV.

A four-time Olympian, Ludwig took some time off the sport after finishing fifth at the Tokyo Games, in 2021, to give birth to her second son, Lenny, and returned with a new partner in former German volleyball national team star Louisa Lippmann. The two made a single appearance in the 2022 Beach Pro Tour season, finishing ninth in the Cape Town Elite16.

The Germans are the 11th-seeded team in the Itapema Challenge qualifier and will need to win two matches on Thursday to advance to the main draw in Brazil.

Other women’s players with Olympic experience set to play in the qualifier in Brazil are Spanish veteran Liliana Fernández, a three-time Olympian who will have Paula Soria as her partner, and Chinese Fan Wang and Xinxin Wang, who will be alongside Jie Dong and Zhu Lingdi, respectively.

Alison, who besides gold in Rio also took silver at the London 2012 Games, is seeded 20th in the men’s qualifier alongside new partner Oscar Guimarães. The Itapema Challenge will be the first international tournament of the two, who have played in two Brazilian Tour events, including one in Itapema, since becoming partners at the start of the year.

The event will be the first the international level for Alison, a two-time world champion, since last year’s FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship, which was played in June.

The Itapema qualifier will feature two other Olympic medallists and one of them in Latvian star Janis Smedins. The 35-year-old, left-handed player is a two-time Olympian and took bronze in London.

He’ll have three-time Olympian, 37-year-old veteran Aleksandrs Samoilovs as his partner and two are seeded 12th in the Itapema qualifier, where they will try to qualify for the main draw for the first time in 2023 after coming up short in Doha and La Paz.


Volleyball Olympic medallist Taylor Sander will be in action on the qualifier

Right below them at 13th place, are Americans Taylor Sander and Taylor Crabb. The 31-year-old Sander is set to start his second full season on the sand after having a decade-long international career with the USA volleyball national team, with who he claimed the bronze medal at the Rio 2106 Olympics.

Other Olympians in the Itapema Challenge qualifier are Argentina’s Nicolás Capogrosso (seeded fourth with his brother and partner Tomas), Mexico’s Juan Virgen (ranked ninth with Miguel Sarabia) and Poland’s Piotr Kantor (seeded tenth with Maciej Rudol).

The qualifier in Itapema is set to start at 8:00 local time (11:00 UTC) and will have 48 matches (24 for each gender). At the end of the day, the eight best men’s and women’s teams will earn a spot in the main draw, which begins on Friday.