TOKYO (Reuters) – The last 16 fixtures in men’s and women’s Olympic beach volleyball were decided on Saturday after the final round of pool matches, while select third-placed teams qualified via the lucky loser playoffs at Shiokaze Park.
With the majority of the top two teams from the six pools qualifying for the knockouts over the last two days, the best third-placed teams discovered if they were guaranteed automatic qualification or moved into the playoffs.
While Germany’s Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler went through as Pool F runners-up with a win over Japan, Mexico’s Josue Gaxiola and Jose Rubio and Americans Nicholas Lucena and Phil Dalhausser qualified as the two best third-placed teams.
Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira edged Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak 31-29, 19-21, 15-7 in a tense encounter to seal the first lucky losers spot but Herrera said he had no plans to celebrate.
“A party? I’m 39 years (old), I think I’m going to eat something and go to bed,” he said.
Chile’s Grimalt cousins — Marco and Esteban — also came through with a 21-17 21-18 win over Switzerland’s Adrian Heidrich and Mirco Gerson.
Marco made a series of crucial blocks midway through the second to set up victory and a spot in the last-16 for the Pan American champions.
In the women’s draw, Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson qualified automatically along with Brazil’s Ana Ramos and Rebecca Silva.
Spain’s Elsa Baquerizo and Liliana Fernandez were the first pair of lucky losers to qualify when they beat Japan’s Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami 21-15 21-10.
“We were kind of struggling with our game and we knew we had to come up strong against the Japanese,” Baquerizo said. “They are a good team, playing at home. We knew they were going to come on like ninjas.
“We had to do our best. I think we played much better, gaining confidence. That makes me proud of my team.”
Cuba’s Lidianny Benitez and Leila Ortega, who finished third in Pool E, were the other benefactors after they beat the Dutch pair of Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon 21-17 21-17.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by William Maclean)