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World’s best beach volleyball players in Fort Lauderdale

Special to the Miami Herald

Forty of the best pro beach volleyball players in the world — including 19 Olympians — will converge in Fort Lauderdale this week for the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals.

The tournament starts Tuesday at 10 a.m. and runs through Sunday. There are two courts set up next to the B Ocean Resort at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1140 Seabreeze Blvd.

There are 10 two-man teams and 10 two-woman teams competing in an event that will award $500,000 in prize money, including $100,000 to each of the two winning teams.

Each bracket (men’s and women’s) is represented by the top eight teams in the world along with two wild-card pairings.

This is the first time Fort Lauderdale has hosted the event. The event came to South Beach in 1994, and one of the women’s winners that day, Brazil’s Isabel Salgado, will be represented in Fort Lauderdale this week by her son, Pedro Solberg.

Noticeably absent from this week’s even will be the women’s reigning three-time Olympic champions, Misty May and Kerri Walsh. May, 38, has retired, and Walsh, 37, who is trying to qualify for next year’s Brazil Olympics with a different partner, is recovering from shoulder surgery.

On the men’s side, there is an Olympic champion at this week’s event — 6-9 American Phil Dalhausser, 35, who won gold with Todd Rogers in Beijing in 2008.

Dalhausser is paired up with 6-1 Fort Lauderdale native Nick Lucena, 36. And although they are here as wild cards, they won a tour stop in China before arriving in South Florida.

The other American men’s team at the event this week pairs 6-7 Jake Gibb, 39, who is a two-time Olympian, and 6-6 Casey Patterson, 35. Gibb finished fifth at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, each time playing with Sean Rosenthal.

Gibb and Patterson, although a relatively new pairing, were named AVP Team of the Year in 2013. They are currently ranked fifth in the world, the highest ranking of any American team.

Bruno Oscar Schmidt and Alison Cerutti of Brazil are the current FIVB world champions. Schmidt is the nephew of former Brazilian Olympic basketball superstar Oscar Schmidt.

In the 1987 Pan American Games final, Schmidt scored 46 points to beat a U.S. college team that included stars such as David Robinson and Danny Manning.

Meanwhile, 6-1 Bruno Oscar Schmidt is a good athlete as well, winning FIVB Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014.

On the women’s side, this event will feature the reigning FIVB champions — the Brazilian duo of Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk.

The two American women’s teams represented are April Ross, 33, and Lauren Fendrick, 33, and Jennifer Kessy, 38, and Emily Day, 28.

Ross has been playing with Walsh but has had to find a new partner because of her teammate’s injury. Fendrick is in a similar spot because her usual teammate, Fort Myers’ Brooke Sweat, is also out with a shoulder injury.

Ross and Fendrick had never played together before earlier this month, when they won first place at the AVP USA Championships in Huntington Beach, California.

Ross and Kessy won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics — now they are on different teams here in Fort Lauderdale. After Fort Lauderdale, the Ross-Fendrick duo will disband as they wait on Walsh and Sweat to heal to try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

That’s probably just as well — Fendrick, a former UCLA standout, and Ross, formerly of USC, are natural rivals thrown together by circumstance.

If you go

What: Pro Beach Volleyball’s Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals.

When: Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m., through Sunday.

Where: Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1140 Seabreeze Blvd., next to B Ocean Resort.

Who: 10 two-man teams and 10 two-woman teams. Of the 40 players, 19 are former Olympians and many are expected to make the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Prize money: A total of $500,000 will be awarded, including $100,000 to each winning team.

Admission: Free; organizers expect 30,000 fans to watch at least parts of the six-day event.

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