Mariehamn, Aland, Finland, August 18, 2007 -
However, the second-seeded Tian and Wang are in jeopardy of losing their season-long FIVB point’s leadership after dropping a 21-19 and 21-15 gold medal match in 38 minutes to top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil, who have captured the last two SWATCH tour crowns.
“We are very tired and did not have enough energy left to defeat a very talented and aggressive team today,” said the 26-year old Tian. “We have played in all 14 international events this season starting May in Shanghai. We have been away from home for over three months, so we are looking forward to a break. It is great to end this journey with a silver medal and the point’s leadership.”
Tian and Wang captured the opening event of the season in Shanghai before collecting nine medals in the next 13 events with six setbacks in gold medal finals. With the consistent showing, Tian and Wang ended their trip as the top-ranked team on the SWATCH circuit with 6,740 points as compared to Juliana and Larissa’s 6,320 points.
With only 12 of the 17 scheduled SWATCH-FIVB World Tour women’s events counting in determining the season-endings point’s championships, Juliana and Larissa can assume the lead with a third-place or better in the next international event in St. Petersburg at the start of next month or when they return to their home sand in Fortaleza at the end of the September.
In winning their 18th SWATCH gold medal match in 30 finales since July 2004, Juliana and Larissa collected the $32,000 PAF Open first-place prize. The Chinese setback to the Brazilians was their seventh in 11 meetings since the start of the 2006 FIVB season in Italy.
Saturday’s title win also avenged the only gold medal match between the two teams when Tian and Wang scored a 20-22, 21-16 and 15-11 Juliana and Larissa 54 weeks ago at the Austrian Grand Slam in Klagenfurt. Despite losing Saturday’s final, the Chinese shared the $22,000 second-place prize.
“Obviously, we are pleased with the outcome,” said the 24-year old Juliana, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the inaugural PAF Open. “We will probably not see the Chinese again until the season-ending event at the start of November in Thailand or when the tour starts again next year. I hope we can reclaim the SWATCH title again as it is very important to us.”
Juliana, Larissa and the rest of the women’s teams from Brazil on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour did not compete in Phuket last year where Tian and Wang dropped the gold medal finale last November to Chinese rivals Chen Xue and Xi Zhang. However, the 2007 Thai event is part of the Olympic qualifying process where a team needs eight good finishes to gain a 2008 Summer Games berth for Beijing.
In the bronze medal match Saturday, the third-seeded Xue and Zhang rebounded from a semi-final setback to Tian and Wang to post a 21-18, 14-21 and 18-16 victory in 54 minutes over 11th-seeded Ana Paula Connelly and Adriana Behar of Brazil. With a combined age of 40, Xue and Zhang shared $16,000 for third-place. With a combined age of 73, Ana Paula and Adriana split $12,000 in their first-event together.
The 11th of 13 double gender events on the 2007 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour calendar, the PAF Open concludes with the men’s medal matches Sunday where teams from Austria, Brazil, Germany and Norway are competing for the three podium spots.
photo Getty Images