World No. 17 Thailand dazzled China and a large crowd of boisterous supporters in the Quan Ngua Competition Hall with a gutsy display and a strong will to win.
The magnificent come-from-behind 20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23 victory over the well-established Chinese team, which last month claimed fifth place at the World Grand Prix in Tokyo, ended Thailand’s gold-medal drought at the biennial competition.
Thailand had never beaten China before. This year, Thailand lost to their formidable rivals twice: a straight-sets loss in the World Championship third round in Chengdu, China in July and again at the last month’s World Grand Prix preliminaries in Macau.
Thailand made their debut in this tournament in its 4th edition in Shanghai in 1987. There, they finished fifth. Since then, their performances were a series of ups and downs. Their best efforts came in 2001 and 2007 on home soil when they finished third.
The scintillating win over the bronze medalists at last year’s Beijing Olympic Games has earned Thailand another berth to play in a world-class competition as they are now guaranteed a ticket in next year’s World Grand Prix.
Thailand will also represent Asia as the continental champions and test their mettle at the World Grand Champions Cup this November in Japan.
“It’s beyond everyone’s expectation. I never thought before that we could come this far. To win a semifinal berth in the Asian Championship was already a dream come true for us. Now we have another sweet dream – to win the Asian crown for the first time ever,” said Thai head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai.
In the third-place playoff, defending and three-time champions Japan powered past Korea for the fourth time in a row in just 35 days. World No. 7 Japan beat Korea twice in the World Grand Prix preliminaries and twice at this tournament, including Sunday’s 25-16, 25-15, 25-18 cakewalk.
13th-14th play-off: Indonesia beat Sri Lanka 3-1 (25-17, 22-25, 25-17, 25-18)
7th-8th play-off: Vietnam beat Iran 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-22)
5th-6th play-off: Kazakhstan beat Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-15)
Bronze medal match: Japan beat Korea 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-18)
Gold medal match: Thailand beat China 2-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23)
6. Chinese Taipei
10. Hong Kong
14. Sri Lanka
Most Valuable Player: Onuma Sittirak (Thailand)
Best Scorer: Kim Yeon Koung (Korea)
Best Spiker: Xue Ming (China)
Best Setter: Nootsara Tomkom (Thailand)
Best Blocker: Xue Ming (China)
Best Server: Saori Kimura (Japan)
Best Libero Player: Wanna Buakaew (Thailand)
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS