|Bangkok, Thailand, February 27, 2005 - Linjun Ji of China became the youngest player ever to win a FIVB-sanctioned Beach Volleyball event as she teamed with Olympian Whenhui You to post a pair of wins here Sunday over teams from host Thailand to capture the US$10,000 Mazda Satellite stop, the first international competition of the 2005 season.
Seeded first in the 12-team field with Whenhui You, Linjun Ji win Sunday came six days before her 19th birthday. The Nystrom twins (Erika and Emilia) captured their first international Beach Volleyball 19 days before their 20th birthday in 2003 when they captured a FIVB satellite stop on August 24, 2003 at Lavandou, France. Born March 5, 1986, Linjun Ji competed in her first FIVB event at Maoming, China, when she was 15 with Lu Wang, Whenhui You's Olympic partner at the Athens 2004 Games.
With four-straight wins this weekend, Linjun Ji and Whenhui You split the $2,000 first-place prize. The Chinese pair posted a 21-14 ad 21-11 semi-final win over sixth-seeded Kasinee Godtalang and Arawan Tongkamkak before scoring a 21-17 ad 21-11 win in 31 minutes over 10th-seeded Kamoltip Kulna and Usa Tenpaksee for the gold medal.
Three of Linjun Ji and Whenhui You's wins in the Mazda event were over teams from Thailand. The Chinese pair did not lose a set this weekend while out-scoring their opponents 21.0-13.5 per set. Whenhui You competed in the Athens 2004 Olympic Beach Volleyball competition where she finished 19th with Lu Wang. Prior to Sunday's title, Whenhui You's best finish was a fourth last season in an ""open"" FIVB event in Shanghi with Lu Wang. Linjun Ji's best previous finish was a fifth in a 2003 ""open"" event in Rhodes, Greece.
"We are very happy to win the first FIVB tournament of the year,"" said Whenhui You after the match. ""Our past experiences played a big part in our success this week. We hope that the 2005 beach volleyball season will bring more successes for us."
China, which hosts the 2008 Olympic Beach Volleyball competition in Beijing, has now won four international Beach Volleyball Gold Medals, including two ""open"" titles in 2003 at back-to-beach events in Indonesia and Italy by 2004 Olympians Jia Tian and Fei Wang and one ""challenger crown in 2001 at a Greece stop by Rong Chi and Zi Xiong.
Kulna and Tenpaksee advanced to the gold medal match after second-seeded Diletta Lunardi and Annamaria Solazzi forfeited their semi-final match to the Thailand tandem. The Italians were trailing in the match to Kulna and Tenpaksee 21-16 and 10-6 when Solazzi became exhausted from the heat on the centre court that was set up at the Robinson's Department Store. Solazzi was unable to play i the the next match and forfeited to Godtalang and Tongkamkak as Thailand captured both the silver and bronze medals. Kulna and Tenpaksee's silver medal finish was the Thailand's best-ever international Beach Volleyball placement.
Rattanaporn Arlaisuk and Manatsanan Pangka captured the bronze medal in the 2001 Thailand Challenger event where they defeated Kulna and Jarunee Sannok in the third-place match in Pattaya, Thailand. Sannok finished seventh this week with Yupa Puklongploy as the ninth-seeded tandem in the 12-team field.