|CHINA’S JIE WANG & JIA TIAN CAPTURE FIRST WOMEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING EVENT|
SHANGHAI, CHINA, May 6, 2007 - If the last seven women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour stops is any indication about the contenders for the medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the host country for the next Summer Games will be among the favorites to reach the Chaoyang Park podium with Beach Volleyball powers Brazil and the United States.
With the Beach Volleyball qualifying process for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games beginning with this week’s US$400,000 China Shanghai Jinshan Open, China captured its fourth gold medal in the last seven women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events here Sunday when top-seeded Jie Wang and Jia Tian outlasted fifth-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway 14-21, 21-18 and 15-13 in 59 minutes.
The 26-year Jia Tian, who is seeking a third trip to the Olympic with a third different partner, was “pleased” with her teams win, but feels there is “a lot of room for improvement. We are still a young team in comparison to most of the teams that have been playing for two or more years together. We still need to be more mature.”
When asked about the road to Beijing, Jia Tian said that “every match, every tournament is very important to us. We can not just stand on the results in one tournament right now. Every team from every country is trying for the same thing, an Olympic berth. It’s a long process with a tremendous award at the end.”
It was the fifth-straight SWATCH-FIVB World Tour win for Jie Wang and Jia Tian over the Norwegians, including a 21-19, 19-21 and 15-9 semi-final win this past November in Phuket, Thailand. Sunday’s podium placement also netted the Chinese winners the $32,000 first-place prize and Jie Wang the SWATCH most outstand player award.
Jie Wang and Jia Tian have now compiled nine SWATCH medals in 14 FIVB starts together with $270,600 in earnings to 22nd all-time. Jia Tian, who has been competing internationally since 1998, has now won five SWATCH-FIVB World Tour gold medals, including two in 2003 with Wang Fei, her Athens 2004 Olympic partner. The 22-year of Jie Wang is starting her third full-season on the FIVB tour as she competed in eight events in 2003 before resuming competition last year with Jia Tian.
Sunday’s title was Jie Wang and Jia Tian’s third during the stretch as the Chinese tandem started the Asian country’s string of success last August by winning the Austrian Grand Slam followed by a gold medal the next month in Poland. Chen Xue and Xi Zhang also captured the 2006 SWATCH season finale in Thailand.
Jie Wang and Jia Tian’s latest gold medal produced China’s second-straight finish atop the China Shanghai Jinshan Open podium. The 2006 Jinshan Beach event featured the first-ever All-Chinese finale on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour when Chen Xue and Xi Zhang upset Jie Wang and Jia Tian for the gold medal. Chen Xue and Xi Zhang placed fifth this year after being eliminated Saturday by their Chinese rivals.
Since the start of the 2006 SWATCH campaign, the Chinese women have now captured five of the past 16 international events with Brazil leading the way with eight gold medals and the United States three titles. Overall, the Brazilians have won 24 of the possible 48 medals during this period with China second (14) followed by the United States (7), Norway (2) and Germany (1).
Norway’s emergence with one of the top women’s team has been fueled by three-straight “final four” finishes by Hakedal and Torlen, who posted their country’s best-ever women’s finish Sunday on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour by receiving the silver medal and earning the $22,000 second-place prize.
“We are disappointed in not winning the gold medal, but we are thrilled with our performance this weekend,” said Torlen about her team’s first SWATCH final. “Give the Chinese a lot of credit for coming back after losing the first set. This was our first final as compared to the Chinese girls have been in final for so many times (seven). We are looking forward to the next tournament and have not regrets.”
In the All-Brazilian bronze medal match, fourth-seeded Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro posted a 16-21, 21-17 and 15-10 victory in 50 minutes over third-seeded Leila Barros and Ana Paula Connelly to claim the $16,000 third-place prize. Talita and Renata lead the SWATCH series between the two teams 3-1.
The podium placement was the second-straight for Talita and Renata as the Brazilian pair claimed the silver medal in their last SWATCH start this past October in Acapulco, Mexico. Leila and Ana Paula, who also won a silver medal in their last SWATCH start last September in Vitoria, Brazil, shared $12,000 for fourth-place. Since 2005, the two Brazilian teams have combined for three SWATCH gold medals, 14 podium places and $625,000 in earnings.
The first of 14 double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, the men’s competition concluded Saturday with Harley Marques and Pedro Salgado upsetting defending China Shanghai Jinshan Open champions Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes 15-21, 22-20 and 15-12 in the All-Brazilian finale. The China Shanghai Jinshan Open was the first of four women’s Asian SWATCH stops in 2007. Other Asian stops will be staged in Singapore (May 23-27), Seoul (May 30-June 3) and Thailand (Phuket, Oct. 31-Nov. 4).
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS