Negombo, Sri Lanka – The AVC Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Asian Central Zonal tournament will begin in Sri Lanka with qualification for the London 2012 Olympic Games set to continue in Asia.
Men’s and women’s teams from India, Kazakhstan, Iran, Maldives and Sri Lanka will battle it out for three tickets to the finals of the Asian Continental Cup. The event is the first time that this kind of a tournament is being hosted in Sri Lanka.
Iran is considered the favourites in the men’s contest after they beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in Pool B of the AVC Continental Cup Central Asia Sub-Zonal competition on Kish Island in March. The Iranian pair of Parviz Farrokhi and Aghamohammad Salagh also defeated Alexandr Dyachenko and Alexey Sidorenko of Kazkkhstan to take gold at the 2011 AVC Beach Volleyball Championships in December in China as well.
However hosts Sri Lanka will want to use home advantage to secure one of the berths in their first ever continental championship. The country dominated the at the first ever South Asian Beach Games with Mahesh Perera and Wasantha Ratnapala taking the gold medal and Pubudu Ekanayake and Sampath Peiris winning silver.
Participating in the women’s tournament are teams from Kazakhstan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Kazakhstan will be eager to clinch the top place as Tatyana Mashkova and Irina Tsimbalova finished second at the Asian Beach Volleyball Tour 2011 in Indonesia. At the 2011 Asian Beach Volleyball Championship Tatyana Mashkova and Irina Tsimbalova and Marina Pilipenko and Bakhtygul Samalikova placed ninth while Ceethika Lalani Kottunnage and Thakshila Appuhanilage and Sagari Bogahalanda and Nirosha Gunasimghe from Sri Lanka finished only 17th.
However, the host team poses many threats to Kazakhstan as their women players finished in the top two at the South Asian Beach Games in October 2011.
The top three finishers will join qualifiers from Eastern, South Eastern, Western and Oceania Zone at the finals, with the eventually winners earning a berth to the London 2012 Olympic Games while the two runners-up move on to the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Cup.
The men’s team from Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam of AVC South Eastern Zone, China, Japan and Hong Kong of Eastern Zone, and Oman, Bahrain and Qatar of AVC Western have already qualified for the Asian finals. The women team having entered the finals are Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia of South Eastern Zone, China, Japan and Chinese Taipei of Eastern Zone.