SEOUL, KOREA, May 18, 2008 - Playing in a heavy rain here Sunday afternoon, China’s Chen Xue and Xi Zhang captured their third SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal by defeating Brazilians Shelda Bede and Ana Paula Connelly on the wet centre court sand at the Han River Jamsil Citizen Park to win the US$175,000 Seoul Open.
Seeded fifth in their 32nd FIVB event since forming their partnership at the start of the 2006 season, the 19-year old Xue and 23-year old Zhang posted a 21-15 and 21-12 win in 41 minutes over the sixth-seeded Brazilians to share the $28,000 first-place prize. Zhang also was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the Seoul Open.
“It was a good win for us in very wet conditions,” said Xue, who is the youngest player ever to win a SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal when she and Zhang captured 2006 titles at international Beach Volleyball stops in China and Thailand. “In this sport, you have to be ready to play in all types of weather conditions. You never want to play in weather like this today. We just adapted better to the conditions than the Brazilians.”
For Shelda and Ana Paula, who split $19,500 for their Seoul Open finish, the silver medal was their best SWATCH FIVB World Tour placement in four international starts together. The Brazilians finished ninth in the 2007 season finale in Thailand before “final four” placements in Australia (bronze) and Shanghai (fourth) this year.
“As Brazilians, we are not used to this weather,” said the 36-year old Ana Paula, who was bidding to win her ninth SWATCH FIVB World Tour title with a fifth different partner. “The weather was horrible and the Chinese handled the conditions so much better than us. We hope to have another chance to play them when the weather is better suited to our style. Give them a lot of the credit today. They were very dominating.”
Sunday’s meeting was the third between the two teams this year as the Brazilians defeated Xue and Zhang in the Adelaide season opener in Australia with the Chinese downing Shelda and Ana Paula two weeks ago in the bronze medal match in Shanghai. In addition, China has now won three of the nine women’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour gold medal meetings between the two countries
In the bronze medal match played in similar conditions, second-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs of the United States scored a 21-19, 13-21 and 15-7 victory in 49 minutes over the top-seeded Juliana and Larissa. Branagh and Youngs shared the $14,000 third-place prize while the Brazilians split $10,500 for fourth-place. The win was also the Americans’ first victory over Juliana and Larissa in four SWATCH meetings.
The women’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour remains in Asia for an event next week in Osaka (May 20-25). After this weekend’s stop in Italy, the men’s international circuit returns to Croatia next week before rejoining the women for the next double gender event in Barcelona, Spain (May 26-June 1).