OLYMPICS / center

US, Chinese top beach volleyball pairs to play final

Updated: 2008-08-19 11:41


Renata Ribeiro of Brazil and Kerri Walsh (R) of the US compete during their women's beach volleyball semifinal match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 19, 2008. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the US will meet Chinese duo Tian Jia and Wang Jie in the final to held on Thursay. [Agencies]

Chinese women's beach volleyball pair Tian Jia and Wang Jie will meet defending Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the United States in the final to be held on Thursday.

It is the first time for Chinese beach volleyball players to play at the Olympics finals.

The Chinese duo won over their compatriots Zhang Xi and Xue Chen in the semifinal on Tuesday. They needed to play three sets before downing their fellow Chinese duo.

Tian/Wang lost the first set 22-24 and the second was not easy for them either as the two sides traded set points before Tian/Wang managed to win the set 29-27, the highest points in the beach volleyball tournament at the Beijing Olympics. The third set went in the advantage of Tian/Wang, who beat the younger duo 15-8.

"Both of us two sides played to our best standard in the match. I hope both of our two teams will have good performance in the next matches," said the 27-year-old three-time Olympian Tian at a press conference after the match.

"My partner played excellently in the match. It seemed she was not for the first time at the Olympics," she commented on the performance of her partner, the 24-year-old Wang, who is competing at her first Olympics.

"I have done my best in the match. I have played and practiced beach volleyball for eight years and all that has been for the Beijing Olympics," the 23-year-old Zhang said.

About the loss of the third set, Zhang said, "We lack experiences and they captured our gaps and curbed our ways of offensive."

Zhang and Xue, both competing at their first Olympics, will take on Brazil's Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro in the bronze medal match, also to be held on Thursday.

International Federation de Volleyball (FIVB) president Dr. Ruben Acosta said China's beach volleyball is coming to reach the world's top level as two Chinese teams were now in the medal matches at the Beijing Olympics.

"The performance of the Chinese players were sensational. They played in top quality," he told Xinhua after watching the semifinal between the two Chinese duos.

"Beach volleyball is not so popular in China now, but I hope China's success in beach volleyball at the Beijing Games will promote the development of the sport in China," said Acosta, who is to officially step down from his 24-year-old presidency after the Beijing Olympics.

In another semifinal held earlier Tuesday, defending champions Walsh May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh defeated the Brazilian duo in a straight-set victory. The two sets went 21-12 and 21-14.

"We have so much respect for the Chinese team. We've got to work our own game, watch some videos and practice hard," May-Treanor said on the final with China's Tian/Wang.

"We just have to focus on ourselves. We know the younger girls have a huge block and great defense, so we're going to prepare for the battle out there," she said.

Asked if she was ready to take the gold medal again, May-Treanor said: "Yes."

Walsh said she is not familiar with the Chinese girls, but she found them to be "sweet and patient".

"They are sweet and patient. They are very kind girls. They always smile," she said of the rivals they are to encounter on Thursday.

With Tuesday's victory, the U.S. duo now boasts a 107-match winning streak.

Dubbed as "queens of the beach", the American duo has not been defeated in a single match since last August.

Men's beach volleyball legend and three-time Olympic champion of the United States Karch Kiraly also prized the partnership of May-Treanor and Walsh "the best ever".

May-Treanor has said her favorite moment is when she hears the national anthem. "I always relive it - wining the Olympic medal - over and over. Even though it was four years ago, it still feels like I'm there."

"We want to win (again)," May-Treanor told Xinhua before the Beijing Games opened. "So we put pressure on ourselves," she said.

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