Smolyan, Bulgaria, July 2, 2014 – There has been a change of guard on top of Bulgaria’s beach volleyball as the winners of the first two tournaments in this year’s National Beach Volleyball Tour for both men and women, in Pleven and in Kazanlak, did not succeed in repeating their achievements at the third stop in Smolyan.
The third edition of the tournament branded Smolyan Beach Open once again took place in the picturesque setting of the central square of the beautiful Rhodope mountain town in southern Bulgaria and was organised by the municipality of Smolyan along with the Bulgarian Volleyball Federation.
In the men’s tournament, Teodor Marinov / Miroslav Gradinarov, a duo of two experienced and decorated players that was formed at the very end of the 2013 season, won their first gold on the National Tour.
It was a spectacular final featuring a three-set battle on the sand court in Smolyan.
Marinov/Gradinarov managed to come back from a set down to win by 2-1 (16-21, 21-19, 15-10) against Nikolay Kolev/Konstantin Mitev, the team that won every single tournament of the 2013 National Tour, as well as the first two stops in 2014, and also represented Bulgaria as the national team’s first duo for the 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup’s first round.
The second pair of the Bulgarian national team, Kiril Hadzhiev/Delcho Raev, ended up with the bronze after claiming a 2-0 (21-18, 21-8) victory over young hopefuls Martin Ivanov/Branimir Grozdanov in the third place match.
“This was the strongest tournament so far this year and winning it gives us a great feeling,” said Teo Marinov. “I was extremely concentrated and motivated for the final and I am happy that we showed our will against Niki and Kotse, who beat us in the last final last summer.”
“I see great growth in most other duos, so we approached this competition without underestimating anybody. Maybe this helped us as well,” added Miro Gradinarov.
On the women’s side, Asya Dinova / Svetla Angelova, who won in Pleven and in Kazanlak and have been traditionally one of Bulgaria’s top duos for years, having been national and Balkan champions, surprisingly failed to make the final in Smolyan.
The first pair of the national team for the Continental Cup lost to Olga Krasteva/Gergana Dokuzova by 2-1 (21-18, 15-21, 15-13) in the semis to settle for bronze after a 2-0 (21-12, 21-18) win against Mariya Aladzhova / Ivana Boyanova in the third place match.
In a tight final match, the other pair from the Bulgarian national team, formed by reigning national champion Rusena Slancheva and her new partner Irena Mishonova after Slancheva’s traditional teammate Diana Malinova sustained an injury during the previous tournament, defeated Krasteva/Dokuzova by 2-0 (21-18, 21-19).
“After completing the tournament we feel great satisfaction and pride for preparing one of the most exciting tournaments in the Bulgarian National Beach Volleyball Tour,” said international volleyball referee Lyubomir Sirakov, the front man in the organisation of Smolyan Beach Open.
“The crowd witnessed amazing battles and breath-taking matches from the very beginning through the final games. No need to say that it would be impossible to organise the show without our sponsors Mihalkovo JSC, Dulger Ltd, Anri-64, Arexim Ltd, Pamporovo JSC, Bultrade Ltd and International Asset Bank, without the support of the Municipality of Smolyan and without the help of our volunteers from the local volleyball club Rodopa Smolyan. After the successful conclusion of the tournament, we are already looking forward to the next edition, which promises to turn into an international event.”