BPT Challenge Itapema - BRAvsNED_4939

After taking bronze in Itapema, Dutchmen Luini and Penninga are back in the qualifier in Doha

Momentum can play a big factor in beach volleyball and the qualifier of this week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge event in Doha, Qatar, will provide a few teams with the opportunity to take advantage of that.

The qualification round ahead of the third Challenge event on the inaugural Beach Pro Tour will take place on Thursday at the Al Gharafa Beach Courts and will reunite 27 men’s and 25 women’s teams from 26 countries. They will compete for the final eight main draw berths per gender.

· All the matches in Doha will be available to watch live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

This week’s qualifier could very well be one of the toughest this whole season. The preliminary round in Doha might not feature as many of the household names as others earlier in the season did, but it will feature a handful of teams that will enter the event with high confidence after some positive recent results.

Dutchmen Leon Luini and Ruben Penninga are a prime example of that. Playing in just their second tournament as partners last month at the Itapema Challenge, the Europeans were ranked ninth in the qualifier and advanced to the main draw before ending the event with the bronze medals around their necks. They also claimed victories against an Olympic champion and five Olympians.

Their excellent finish in Brazil didn’t grant the 21-year-old Luini and the 24-year-old Penninga enough entry points to be seeded in the main draw in Doha, but they certainly have what it takes to be an even more dangerous duo after the experience they had in Itapema.

French Youssef Krou and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat will hit the courts in Doha in a similar position after they had a stellar team debut in Itapema, when they advanced all the way from the qualifiers to the quarterfinals.

BPT Challenge Itapema - FRAvsPOR 5

Krou and partner Gauthier-Rat will be looking to add more ranking points to their team's total in Doha

The Grimalt cousins Marco and Esteban are another team set to compete in the Doha qualifier who are on their way up. After not making it out of the qualifiers at the Tlaxcala Challenge and the Rosarito Elite16, the Chilean Olympians took an important step forward in Itapema, when they advanced and finished ninth.

In the women's tournament, Canada has seen one of its teams pick up momentum heading into Doha. New partners Brandie Wilkerson, a Tokyo Olympian, and Sophie Bukovec struggled in the Tlaxcala Challenge but bounced back in great style in Itapema, surviving the qualifier and ranking fifth.

The two have remained active since the event in Brazil, won a NORCECA tournament in Mexico and finished fifth at last week’s Brazilian Tour stop. They will arrive in Doha with excellent match rhythm.

Another attraction in the Doha qualifier will be the debut of Finnish team Taru Lahti and Niina Ahtiainen. The 29-year-old Lahti was away from beach volleyball for nearly two years to give birth to her daughter Aida and, after a brief return in 2021, is ready to tackle full-time competition again.