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Swiss and Latvians enjoy Baku's golden sands

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The best Beach Volleyball images of Baku 2015

Beach Volleyball | Best of Baku 2015
Nina Betschart of Switzerland dives during the Women's Beach Volleyball final. Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Nicole Eiholzer of Switzerland spikes the ball as Giulia Toti of Italy defends in the Women's Beach Volleyball Semifinal during day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Iaroslav Rudykh of Azerbaijan dives for the ball in the Beach Volleyball quarterfinals during day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Nicole Eiholzer (L) and Nina Betschart of Switzerland (2L) celebrate victory as Lena Maria Plesiutschnig (2R) and Katharina Schutzenhofer (R) of Austria (black) embrace after the Women's Beach Volleyball gold medal match between Austria and Switzerland on day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Haralds Regza of Lithuania dives for the ball as Martins Plavins watches in the Beach Volleyball quarterfinals during day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: Yana Mileuskaya (L) and Valeryia Babenka of Belarus celebrate during the Women's Beach Volleyball Preliminary round match against Norway on day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 18: Hakan Gogtepe of Turkey competes in the Men's Beach Volleyball Preliminary match against Czech Republic during day six of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 18, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Dancers perform during the Men's Group C Preliminary match between Italy and Greece on day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 20: Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza of Lithuania return a serve on their way toward defeating Neilton Santos and Iaroslav Rudykh of Azerbaijan in the Beach Volleyball quarterfinals during day eight of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 20, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 18: Zinaida Liubymova of Azerbaijain competes in the Women's Beach Volleyball Preliminary match between Finland and Azerbaijan during day six of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 18, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Oeivind Hordvik of Norway kisses his wife following victor against Arnas Rumsevicius and Lukas Kazdailis of Lithuainia in the Men's Beach Volleyball Preliminary match during day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 18: Vivian Cunha and Zinaida Liubymova of Azerbaijan compete in the Women's beach Volleyball Elimination round match against Erika Nystrom and Emilia Nystrom of Finalnd during day six of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 18, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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Francisco Javier Tomas Cuadrado on his was out of Baku 2015. Tom Pennington/Getty Images
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Spectators enjoy the action during the Men's Group Preliminary matches on day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Maciej Kosiak of Poland returns the ball during the Men's Volleyball Preliminary match between Poland and Spain on day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Dancers perform during the Men's Group C Preliminary match between Italy and Greece on day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 21: Martins Plavins (1) of Latvia dives for the ball during the Men's Beach Volleyball semi final match between the Czech Republic and Latvia during day nine of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 21, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 19: Fans use games maps to make hats as they watch the Men's Beach Volleyball Preliminary Round during day seven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Beach Arena on June 19, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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A review of Beach Volleyball at the Baku 2015 European Games

The unlikely combination of Alpine neighbours Switzerland and Austria found themselves right at home at the Beach Arena in the women's Beach Volleyball competition, contesting a thrilling final at the culmination of one of Baku 2015's most memorable competitions.

In the men's competition, the Latvian pairing of Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza ran out victorious, defeating Russia in a see-saw encounter that proved as unpredictable as the early strong winds had made the first rounds of competition. 

It was the tricky conditions in the group stages that saw the likes of Austria taking advantage of several teams' defensive approaches, and the women's technical team analysed every ball of every match to try and outsmart their opponents. The strategy worked, the relatively inexperienced pair not dropping a set in their opening three matches. 

They were, however, up against the formidable Swiss 19-year-olds Nicole Eiholzer and Nina Betschart, who blasted past Spain in the quarter-final and Italy in the semi-final without dropping a set.

The duo were made to work for the their golds, however, and dug deep late on in a gripping final to defeat Austria's plucky pairing of Lena Maria Plesiutschnig and Katharina Schutzenhofer and win the first European Games Beach Volleyball gold medal.

"It's unbelievable," Betschart admitted later. "Didn't expect it. We were behind them all the time."

The men's competition was a more evenly balanced affair across the five days of matches, with the Russian pair of Dmitry Barsouk and Yaroslav Koshkarev looking the strongest through the early stages. 

The Swiss duo Alexei Strasser and Gabriel Kissling looked in good form before being comprehensively stopped in their tracks by the Czech team of Premysl Kubala and Jan Hadrava, but they in turn were no match for the might of Latvia's Martins Plavins and Haralds Regza in the first semi-final.

In the second half of the draw, Russia's Dmitry Barsouk and Yaroslav Koshkarev blasted past another Swiss coupling, Strasser and Kissling, to book their place in the final. 

Plavins and Regza had been thrown together following an injury to Plavins' regular partner, Janis Smedins, but having only played once together pre-tournament seemed to work in their favour. Playing without fear, they composed themselves after a second-set scare to take the gold, before confirming they will go out on top as a partnership.

"There is no future together. We split up with a gold medal," Plavins said. "I have my partner, he has his partner until Rio. I have my plans, he has got his plans, but we had small plans together and we did it."


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    Swiss and Latvians enjoy Baku's golden sands

    A review of Beach Volleyball at the Baku 2015 European Games
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    Plavins and Regza win Beach Volleyball gold

    Latvian duo beat Russia pair and confirm they will split after Baku 2015
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    Last-minute partnership could prove golden

    Latvians reach Beach Volleyball final after one tournament and one practice together
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    Swiss teenagers find gold on the beach

    A fitting final saw Austria push their Alpine neighbours all the way
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    Cut-throat Swiss take out undefeated Austrians

    Latvia, Russia and Czech Republic also in the final four on Sunday
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    From the mountains to the beach

    Swiss and Austrian teams find themselves at home on the sand
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    Shock double elimination for Italy in Beach Volleyball

    Both men's pairs were unbeaten after pool stages but fall in first real test
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