Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Xue and Zhang retain Asian Games Beach Volleyball title

Champions Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China (middle) pose with second-place Huang Ying and Yue Yuan, also of China (left) and third-placed Usa Tenpaksee and Jarunee Sannok of Thailand after the award presentation on Tuesday
Guangzhou, China, November 23, 2010 – Invincible Xue Chen and Zhang Xi successfully defended their gold medal at the 16th Asian Games Beach Volleyball competition on Tuesday after sweeping past Huang Ying and Yue Yuan in the all-Chinese showdown in Guangzhou, China, adding to the gold they picked up in Doha, Qatar four years ago.

Top-seeds and world No.3 Xue and Zhang powered past the younger Huang and Yue in straight sets 21-14, 21-13 in 37 minutes as the women’s tournament drew to a close.

The scintillating win over their compatriots has stretched Xue and Zhang’s unbeaten run at the Asian Games to two tournaments in a row. The superb Chinese duo also won the Asian Championship in both 2009 and 2010 aside from winning bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and three SWATCH FIVB World Tour events this year including the Moscow Open in Russia and the Sanya Open on home soil.

“For me, it’s not easy to win this match,” Zhang said in the press conference after the match. “I admit that I was under pressure and played nervously. However, I tried to overcome my fear and nervousness with confidence. I succeeded eventually. Playing in the final is not that easy. You have to fight your rivals and your pressure alike.

“Although this is our second gold medal in the Asian Games, excitement is not the same. In Doha, we were happy to win the gold medal for the first time, but here we have to defend our title which is much more difficult. Playing on home soil in front of a large crowd of spectators also made me so excited.

“Winning gold for two consecutive times is our ultimate goal. This will be our stepping stone for a big leap to winning gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Although we have already won the Asian Games two times, we still need comments from all sides to improve our performance for future major tournaments including the 2012 Olympics.”

“I’m also excited as we are here as defending champions,” team-mate Xue added. “To win the gold medal is a difficult mission, but to defend the title is a tougher task. Fortunately, we had an easy match in the final.

“Zhang has taken good care of me. We played together more than five years. She gave me kind support. My credit for winning today went to all volunteers who gave me a boost and then I played confidently.”

Huang praised Xue and Zhang, saying that they deserved the win as they played much better than her side.

“We are no match against them,” she said. “They had all the elements to win the gold. They are fast and strong. We tried to match them competitively, but they proved that they are a cut above us. I learned a lot from this match against them. I think Yue and I still have many things to improve, especially the unforced mistakes we have made in the final match.”

In the third-place playoff earlier in the day, Usa Tenpaksee and Jarunee Sannok ended Thailand’s medal drought when the Asian Beach Games champions beat Malaysians Luk Teck Hua and Beh Shun Thing 21-18 21-14 in 39 minutes.

Twelve years ago in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand, Manassanan Phaengkha and Rattanaporn Arlaisuk handed the country the Games gold for the first time. Since then, no Thai beach player has won a single medal in the continent’s quadrennial sports extravaganza.

The bronze medal achieved on Tuesday night in front of a large number of Chinese spectators packing the Asian Games Beach Volleyball venue ended the long wait.

“This is my first Asian Games,” Tenpaksee said. “I started playing Beach Volleyball at 15 and now I’m 26. After 11 years taking the sport seriously, I eventually won a medal in the Asian Games.

“In the first set, we did not play well. It was a very tight set as both teams tried their best to win the set. We made a lot of mistakes and we didn’t cooperate well.”

“We played cool under pressure,” Sannok added. “We just wanted to win the match to get a medal for our country although it’s just a bronze medal. However, we played nervously in the first set. We improved our performance in the second set and it paid off impressively. I’m glad to win at last.”

Malaysians Luk and Beh however could not hide their disappointment following the bitter loss to the Thai tandem but said coming this far made them proud.

“We have got a historic breakthrough for Malaysia,” Beh said. “We are young but can play this level. No one expected that we can stand among the top four. There are many strong teams in these Asian Games and we even didn’t know whether we could make it to the quarter-finals.

“Nevertheless, we struggled into the semifinals one step at a time by being the dark horse again and again. I still feel upset that we could not win a medal. I did not play well in blocking. However, I want to thank my coach for his devotion for our hard training in preparation for these Games.”

The 16th Asian Games Beach Volleyball competition will come to a close on Wednesday, with an all-Chinese showdown in the men’s event at 8pm (local time). Kazakhstan and Japan will fight it out for the bronze at 7pm.

Tuesday’s results
Bronze-medal match: Usa Tenpaksee/Jarunee Sannok (Thailand) b Luk Teck Hua/Beh Shun Thing (Malaysia) 2-0 (21-18 21-14)

Gold-medal match: Xue Chen/Zhang Xi (China) b Huang Ying/Yue Yuan (China) 2-0 (21-14 21-13)

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