Shanghai, China, May 28, 2006 - Michelle Wie has a challenger now as the youngest professional athlete in the world as 17-year old Xue Chen teamed with Zhang Xi to capture the US$400,000 China Shanghai Jinshan Open for the host country.
With her team’s 23-21 and 21-14 win in 38 minutes over second-seeded Wang Jie and Tian Jia in the finals of the women’s SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event, Xue Chen became the youngest player ever to capture an international Beach Volleyball event. With the gold medal, the young Chinese shared the $32,000 first-place prize.
“It is an honor to be the youngest,” said Xue Chen, who had her last birthday February 18. “However, it is only special today. We resume play Wednesday in Athens and we have to qualify for the Main Draw. We played very well the last two days and gained a lot of confidence. My partner was incredible and I am lucky to have her on my side of the net.”
Prior to Xue Chen’s golden performance this week, China also held the mark with the youngest player to win an international Beach Volleyball when Ji Linjun captured a FIVB event February 27, 2005 as an 18-year old (nine months, 24 days) in Thailand with You Whenhui.
Xue Chen and the 21-year old Zhang Xi, who was named the SWATCH most outstanding player for the event, won seven of their nine matches this week with their only setback being Friday morning (21-15 and 21-18) to top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca. However, the Chinese avenged the defeat with a 21-17, 19-21 and 15-11 semi-final victory over the Brazilians.
After placing 17th in the SWATCH season opener two weeks ago in Modena, Italy, the Chinese posted five-straight upset victories enroute to the in Chen Xue’s fourth international appearance and Zhang Xi’s 23rd.
“They out-played us today,” said 25-year old Chinese Olympian Tian Jia after the match. “I am extremely disappointed in my play. I am happy for China’s success this week, but we played poorly today and allowed the winners to gain confidence as the match progressed.”
Wang Jie and Tian Jia, who captured a bronze medal in the SWATCH opener two weeks ago in Modena, Italy, split $22,000 and missed an opportunity to join Juliana and Larissa as the point’s leader on international circuit. The Brazilians captured the 2006 China Shanghai Jinshan Open bronze medal after winning the gold medal last year on the Jinshan Beach Volleyball centre court.
With a 21-14 and 21-12 win in 36 minutes over ninth-seeded Zhang Ying and Zuo Man of China, Juliana and Larissa have now compiled 1,080 SWATCH points this season with $48,000 in earnings after the first two women’s events this season. Wang Jie and Tian Jia have now compiled 1,020 points and $38,000 in winnings. Xue Chen and Zhang Xi are tied for third (720 points, $35,000) in the SWATCH standings with Adriana Behar/Shelda Bede ($20,000) of Brazil and Greece's Vassiliki Arvaniti/Vasso Karadassiou ($20,000).
With Sunday’s finale being the first-ever All-Chinese gold medal match on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour since the start of the circuit in 1992, Xue Chen and Zhang Xi also became the first players to win a SWATCH stop in the Asian country in nine events. Olympians Ron Chi and Zi Xiong posted a bronze medal finish at the 2000 Dalian stop prior to the Sydney 2000 Summer Games.