2019-04-04 15:19:00 CET

The 1997 World Championships

Our guide to every Beach Volleyball World Championships in history starts begins in California

1997 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship

Semis & Final ( Men & Women)

In a nutshell

Hello world! One year after beach volleyball had made its Olympic debut in Atlanta, the sport finally got its first proper World Championships, sanctioned, endorsed and run by the FIVB in 1997.

The inaugural championships were held in the USA, in Los Angeles, California in September where 56 men’s and 45 women’s teams took to the sand, competing for a shared purse of 600,000 US Dollars.

What do you mean ‘first proper world champs’?

Beach volleyball was still a fledging professional sport in the late 80s and early 90s and as such no official World Championship tournament was around. So, off the back of the success and interest the sport gained from players and fans, it time that beach had its own World Championship.

The so-called ‘unofficial’ Championships ran from 1987 until 1996 and were held in Rio. In the men’s events, the first seven were all won Americans, with Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos winning five of those.

Massive crowds gathered to see the world’s best compete. We’d highly recommend you watch this video of the 1992 final between Smith and Stoklos against Brazil’s Paulao/Emilio.

The history makers

Brazilian teams won both gold medals, much to the disappointment of an expectant home crowd, who saw American teams just fall short in both finals.

In the women’s tournament South American pair Sandra Pires and Jackie Silva took gold, beating top seeds Lisa Arce and Holly McPeak in a thrilling three setter, 12-11, 1-12, 12-10 – this of course the old days of sideout scoring.

Rogerio Ferreira and Guilherme Marquez reigned supreme for Brazil in the men’s final, coming back from losing the first set to beat Americans Canyon Ceman and Mike Whitmarsh 5-12, 12-8, 12-10. 

No bronze medal match was actually contested (that’s still the case on the national tour), but Brazil and the USA both had representatives in both genders ‘share’ third place. Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar and Paulao Moreira and Paulo Emilio Silva of Brazil and, from the States, Karolyn Kirby and Nancy Reno and Dain Blanton and Kent Steffes.

Worth a watch

Check out the men’s final in all its glory on Youtube.

Beach Volleyball 1997 World Championships Final

Ceman/Whitmarsh vs Marques/Para

Surprise packages

When we say the tournament was dominated by Brazil and the US we mean it. The top five in both genders were completely made-up of teams from both countries (four Brazilian and four American).

As surprises go, Kirby and Reno, who finished third, were the number 12 seeds, while men’s champions Ferreira and Marquez were the ninth seeds.

It was not a tournament to remember for the European teams who made the trip to California. In the men’s event just one team from Europe finished in the top 10, Swiss brothers Martin and PAUL Laciga. European women faired a little better, with four teams from the continent finishing in the top 10, including another sibling pairing, Debora and Rebecca Kadijk.

A special World Championships because…

Well, it was first official World Champs. There had been 10 (yes, ten) previous unofficial ‘World Championships’ before this event, all of which were held between 1987 and 1996 in Rio de Janiero.

The tournament also marked the 50 year anniversary of the foundation of the FIVB, and also showcased an international four-person invitational exhibition tournament (both won by the USA).

Impress your friends by saying:

Did you know, Brazilians Sandra Pires and Jackie Silva took the first ever World Championship gold medal a year after being crowned the first ever Olympic champions in Atlanta.


Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes, who were the reigning men’s Olympic champions had already split and were playing with new partners in LA. Kent took third place with new teammate Dain Blanton, whole Karch finished fifth with Adam Johnson.

Where are they now?

Golden medalist Jackie Silva is still heavily involved in the sport. She is involved with a Smart Athletes Project in Brazil, which encourages youngsters to stay in school using volleyball. She is also a motivational speaker and holds regular volleyball clinics.

Primeira mulher brasileira a conquistar uma medalha de ouro em olimpíadas, ao lado de @sandrapiresoficial. #mulheresnoesporte #voleidepraia #beachvolley #rederosa

535 Likes, 43 Comments - Jackie silva (@jackievolley) on Instagram: "Primeira mulher brasileira a conquistar uma medalha de ouro em olimpíadas, ao lado de..."

The championship in one word?


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