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Olympics: Testing start for beach volleyballers

Paul (left) and Martin Laciga celebrate a hard-fought victory Keystone

Switzerland's beach volleyball brothers, Martin and Paul Laciga, faced stiffer than expected opposition in the first round of the Olympic tournament. It took the Swiss pair almost an hour to beat their Czech opponents 15-13.

This content was published on September 17, 2000 - 14:51

The win moves the Lacigas into the last sixteen but despite their claims that they are treating the Olympics like any other competition, both brothers seemed nervous in their opening match.

The Czech pair, Michal Palinek and Martin Lebl, are good friends and regular training partners of the Lacigas, but the 7,000-strong crowd that gathered to watch the game on Bondi beach saw an encounter far more closely fought than any of their five previous meetings.

After building up a 13-6 lead, the Lacigas let the Czechs back into the game. At 14-10 the Swiss pair then had four match points but Palinek and Lebl defended them all successfully.

The Czechs then scored three points themselves to move to within a single point of levelling the tie. Finally Paul Laciga was able to wrap up the game with a spectacular diagonal smash, but he admitted afterwards that it had been a far from perfect start to the Olympic campaign.

"We had a lot of trouble with our jump serves in particular," he said. "But fortunately the Czechs also didn't play to the best of their ability."

The Swiss medal hopes weren't the only ones who had a hard time in the first round. The Australian top seeds Julian Prosser and Lee Zahner suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Mexico's Joel Sotelo and Juan Ibarra.

Prosser and Zahner will now have to play through another two days of qualifying matches to fight their way back into the draw.

After surviving Sunday's scare the Lacigas now have a few days to concentrate on their training. On Tuesday they will find out who they will play in the last sixteen, with their next match taking place on Friday at the earliest.

swissinfo with agencies

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