Mariafe

Women's top seeds Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia

For the first time in three years, the international circuit is set to return to Espinho, known in Portugal as the capital of beach volleyball, for this week’s Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge tournament.

Held at the popular Praia da Baia, a venue for the sport for almost 30 years, the event, which will be the first Beach Pro Tour tournament held in Portugal, will run from Thursday, the day of the qualifiers, until Sunday, when the winners in both genders will be known.

· Watch all the matches of the Espinho Challenge live or on demand on Volleyball TV.

Espinho is one of six Portuguese cities to have hosted international beach volleyball events. It is the venue with the longest tradition of hosting events, and also one of the most popular. Located on the country’s Atlantic coast, the city will welcome the elite of the sport for the 17th time in 2022, a number that makes it one of the cities beach volleyball returns to most often, ranking only behind Switzerland’s Gstaad (22), Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro (19) and Austria’s Klagenfurt (18).

The beach volleyball tradition in Espinho started in 1995, when the city hosted a double-gender FIVB World Tour tournament that saw Brazilians Franco Neto and Roberto Lopes win the men’s event and Americans Holly McPeak and Nancy Reno prevail among the women.

The event was then held in the city for 13 consecutive seasons, until 2007, when Ricardo Santos/Emanuel Rego and Juliana Felisberta/Larissa Franca gave Brazil the victory in both genders.

After a ten-year gap, beach volleyball returned to Espinho in 2017, with a men’s two-star tournament, which was won by 2022 Beach Volleyball World Championship medallists Vitor Felipe and George Wanderley of Brazil. The event was upgraded to four stars in 2018 and 2019, when it also featured a women’s tournament.

Brazilian teams have been very successful in Espinho over the years. Besides winning more medals than any other country at 41 (13 gold, 14 silver, 14 bronze), the South Americans have only missed the podium on three occasions. They have also celebrated four podium sweeps.

GalleryPic

Brazil sent two teams to the men's podium in Espinho in 2019 with Alison Cerutti/Alvaro Filho taking gold and Andre Loyola/George Wanderley claiming silver

Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho will return to Espinho this week after winning the event at the Praia da Baia in 2018. Last week's bronze medallists in Gstaad are ready for the challenge.

“Espinho was our first big victory at the international level, so it’s a place we have good memories,” Clancy commented. “The wind is a real factor there, but as a jump server, I like to play in places like that. It’s a beautiful beach and a really iconic event with such a long history in international beach volleyball. The conditions there make it a bit difficult, but it’s nice to go back to where the game began in a certain way.”

GalleryPic (1)

Mariafe and Clancy in action during the gold medal match of the 2018 event in Espinho

This year’s Beach Pro Tour Challenge tournament in Espinho will feature 96 teams from 31 different countries. The 16 best-ranked teams in each gender will start the tournament directly in the main draw, while the remaining spots will be contested on Thursday in the qualifier by 32 men’s and women’s duos.