Czechia’s Oliva & Kurka and Germany’s Christ & Grune claim first Tour gold medals at Nuvali Futures

  • Philippines’ James Buytrago & Rancel Varga take home silver at Nuvali Futures with FIVB Volleyball Empowerment coach support
  • Teams from Czechia and Latvia earn men’s gold and bronze in Santa Rosa
  • Germany, USA and Japan line up on the women’s podium

 FIVB Volleyball Empowerment beneficiaries James Buytrago & Rancel Varga of the Philippines claimed the pair’s first-ever Beach Pro Tour medal by finishing runners-up at last week’s Nuvali Futures on home sand in Santa Rosa. The duo from Czechia, Krystof Jan Oliva & Vaclav Kurka topped the men’s podium to celebrate the team’s first gold, while Latvian pair Toms Liepa & Ernests Puskundzis took bronze and also made it to their first podium on the Tour.

In the women’s competition, the first Beach Pro Tour gold was claimed by Chenoa Christ & Anna-Lena Grune of Germany, who are also about to receive FIVB Volleyball Empowerment support. The USA’s Alaina Chacon & Mariah Whalen made their third podium in a row, settling for a second consecutive silver. Riko Tsujimura & Takemi Nishibori of Japan completed the podium for their first Tour medal, both as a team and individually.

The Philippine National Volleyball Federation has so far received a total of CHF 436,500 worth of Volleyball Empowerment assistance, a large share of which went to its beach volleyball programme, for both coach support for their national teams and beach equipment.

Trained by Brazilian coach Joao Luciano Kiodai, hired in December 2022 through a Volleyball Empowerment coach support grant, James Buytrago & Rancel Varga, seeded fourth in the Nuvali main draw. They delighted the home crowd in Santa Rosa with a four-game winning streak, crowned by a 2-0 (21-14, 21-16) sweep of their semi-final against Liepa & Puskundzis, that led them to the trophy match against Oliva & Kurka. Despite allowing the team from Czechia a 2-1 (21-16, 16-21, 13-15) comeback, the 24-year-old pair from the Philippines celebrated a historic success at their second appearance on the Tour as a team. Just four and a half months ago, Buytrago & Varga tested their luck at the Nuvali Challenge, but were knocked in the qualifiers.

19-year-old Oliva and 20-year-old Kurka started the tournament in the Philippines as the top-seeded team in Thursday’s qualifications and, after making their way into the main draw, continued their victorious quest to the gold, with an overall six-game winning streak. Seeded 11th in the main draw, the Czech duo overcame ninth-seeded Hasan Huseyin Mermer & Sacit Kurt of Türkiye in a 2-0 (22-20, 21-17) semi-final and then snatched their first gold with a win over Buytrago & Varga in Sunday’s final showdown. Unlike Kurka, for whom this was only the second Beach Pro Tour appearance, Oliva has been playing internationally since 2021 and last year he celebrated his first medal, a Lecce Futures silver.

The Latvian pairing of 19-year-old Liepa & Puskundzis, who entered the tournament as the second-seeded team in the qualification bracket and the 12th seed in the main draw, lost only two of their seven matches in the Philippines, both to home favourites Buytrago & Varga. They recovered with a 2-0 (22-20, 21-10) sweep of the third-place game against Mermer & Sacit to earn the bronze on their third Tour appearance as a duo. The Latvian Volleyball Federation’s beach volleyball department have also previously benefitted from a CHF 36,000 coach support grant from Volleyball Empowerment for their men’s teams.

23-year-old Chenoa Christ and 22-year-old Anna-Lena Grune of Germany, seeded second in the women’s main draw, cruised through the five games they played in Santa Rosa undefeated. The only set they dropped at the tournament was in the final on the way to a 2-1 (21-12, 13-21, 15-12) victory over top-seeded Alaina Chacon & Mariah Whalen. Before that, in the semi-finals, the pair produced a 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) win over fifth-seeded duo from New Zealand, Danielle Quigley & Olivia MacDonald. After a 2022 Baden Futures bronze, now Christ & Grune added the first gold to their Beach Pro Tour collection as a pair.

The German Volleyball Federation is soon to start receiving Volleyball Empowerment assistance as the FIVB has approved a coach support grant for their national teams.

Christ & Grune triumph as Nuvali Futures gold medallists

25-year-old Chacon & Whalen of the USA made it to their third back-to-back podium. Starting the team’s first season on the Tour with a fourth place in Mollymook, they went on to collect a bronze at Mount Maunganui, a silver in Coolangatta, and now another silver at the Nuvali Futures, stopping just short of completing their upward climb with a first place. Their impeccable run of four straight-set wins in a row towards the final was highlighted by a 2-0 (21-18, 21-15) sweep of their semi-final against Riko Tsujimura & Takemi Nishibori of Japan.

The pair from Japan made sure they crowned their Beach Pro Tour debut as a duo with a podium finish and came back from a set down to celebrate a 2-1 (14-21, 21-15, 15-12) victory over Quigley & MacDonald in the bronze medal match.

The Nuvali Futures podium

21 men’s and 17 women’s teams representing a total of 16 different countries took part in the Nuvali Futures. The next Futures stops on the Beach Pro Tour are a men’s tournament in Madrid, Spain and a double-gender event in Pingtan, China, both from 9 to 12 May.

Nuvali Futures: results and standings


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