Poland’s Bartosz Losiak and Piotr Kantor made a quantum leap in the Olympic rankings Sunday by defeating Qatar’s Ahmed Tijan and Cherif Samba for the gold medal at the FIVB four-star beach volleyball event in Sochi, Russia.
The Poles staved off two match points in the second set for a gutsy 17-21, 23-21, 15-10 victory and the 800-point gold medal lifts the Poles 400 points to 6,340, leapfrogging from 19th to 15th. The top 15 in the Olympic qualification period receive Olympic bids.
The Poles now have a 200-point lead over Chile’s Marco and Esteban Grimalt for the critical final Olympic berth.
Going into the final Olympic qualifier in Ostrava next weekend, only two teams can challenge for that final berth. Chile’s Grimalts must finish bronze or better, presuming no improvement by the Poles, and Latvia’s Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins must finish silver or better.
The 18th-seeded Losiak and Kantor have not medaled on the World Tour since 2018, when they won gold in an FIVB four-star event in Warsaw and bronze in the World Tour Finals in Hamburg.
The loss was a disappointment for the second-seeded Qataris, who were unable to convert two match points in the second set. Younousse and Tijan’s physical style of play has made them one of the Olympic medal favorites. They won gold in Doha and Cancun Hub 3, and lost in the championship matches of Cancun Hub 1 and 2.
The bronze medal went to the Netherlands’ Steven van de Velde and Christiaan Varenhorst, who defeated Italy’s Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi 21-16, 26-28, 15-9. The Dutch pair returned to the medal stand for the first time since the FIVB four-star in Itapema, Brazil in 2019.
Although van de Velde and Varenhorst will miss the cutoff for Olympic qualification as one of the top 15 teams, they can still qualify through the European Continental Cup finals June 23-26.
In the semifinals, Poland’s Kantor and Losiak defeated Italy’s Rossi and Carambula 25-23, 21-16, while Qatar’s Younousse and Tijan reached the finals with a 12-21, 21-18, 15-13 win over the Netherland’s van de Velde and Varenhorst.