Rome, Italy, September 8, 2019 - The partnership of Margareta Kozuch and Laura Ludwig gained the respect of the beach volleyball community here Sunday evening at the Foro Italico as the German pair captured their first-ever international gold medal together by upsetting Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa to win the US$600,000 FIVB World Tour Finals.
With Agatha and Duda playing in their third-straight FIVB World Tour Finals and seeking their second-straight gold medal, the 20th-seeded Kozuch and Ludwig posted a 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) win in 43 minutes over the fourth-seeded Brazilians.
With Kozuch winning her first-ever international gold medal, Ludwig continues to add to her list of successes as she was playing in her fourth FIVB World Tour Finals with three titles to her credit now. Ludwig captured the first two titles with Kira Walkenhorst in 2016 and 2017.
The 2016 crown followed Ludwig and Walkenhorst’s gold medal finish at the Rio Olympics where the German pair defeated Agatha and Barbara Seixas in the finals. After winning the 2017 world championships in August at Vienna, Ludwig and Walkenhorst validated the title later in the month by defeating Agatha and Duda in the FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg, Germany.
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“It felt like a really long time (since she last won a tournament)," said the 33-year old Ludwig. "The entire season was a massive test for us, we were kept on check all the time and had to remain patient and work on the things we really believed. It’s great to see the work pay off at the end of the season because it shows we’re on the right path and keeps us motivated to the next one. We communicated a lot and played really, really well.”
Kozuch, who is completing her third full-season on the FIVB circuit after a stellar indoor career as Germany's top player, said “when the last ball touched the sand, I couldn’t believe it was over and we had won, it took me a few minutes to actually realize it. This has been a tough tournament right from the beginning, we lost our first match and just battled through it. Today we showed our potential on blocking and defense, which gave us a great feeling.”
With their sixth-straight match win this weekend after dropping their opening pool play contest Thursday to German rivals Karla Borger and Julia Sude, Kozuch and Ludwig claimed the $40,000 first-place prize along with collecting 1,200 Olympic qualifying points for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. Last week at the German championships, Borger and Sude defeated Kozuch and Ludwig for the title.
Sunday's gold medal victory also avenged a setback to Agatha and Duda early last month at the Vienna Major where the Brazilians posted a three-set victory over Kozuch and Ludwig. Despite the setback, Agatha and Duda shared the $32,000 second-place prize along with collecting 1,080 points for Tokyo qualifying.
In the women’s bronze medal match, sixth-seeded Rebecca Cavalcanti and Ana Patricia Silva of Brazil rebounded from a 13-11 deficit in the third and deciding set to post a 2-1 (19-21, 21-18, 16-14) win in 59 minutes over 10th-seeded Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland.
With their second win in as many matches with the Swiss, Rebecca and Ana Patricia finished their first full season on the FIVB World Tour by sharing the $20,000 third-place prize while the Swiss split $16,000 for finishing fourth.
“We had a very slow start,” said Rebecca. “We lost a tough match to Agatha and Duda in the semifinals and I felt that our energy was down in the first set and that cannot happen against such a good team as the Swiss. We started figuring things out in the break to the second set and even though it wasn’t a great match from our side, we never gave up and we took the risks when we had to and I think that’s what made the difference in the end.”
Ana Patricia, who celebrates her 22nd birthday at the end of September, said “It has been a great season for us and to end it here with a bronze medal is just awesome. We’re exhausted since we’ve been playing non-stop since the end of last year, but it feels great now because we got the job done. I always think we need to take advantage of all the experiences we had this season and I think we’ve been doing a great job on that.”