PRESS RELEASE 12.09.2003


South Korea retain title at Asian Men's Volleyball Championship

Tianjin, China, September 12, 2003 - South Korea fought back from 2-1 down to beat China 3-2 and retain their title as Asian Men's Volleyball Champions here on Friday.

The 2002 title holders outlasted China 27-25, 22-25, 21-25, 25-21 and 15-8 to finish first in the four-team round-robin final round with three wins against no defeats and in the process broke the hosts' five-match winning streak at the tournament.

China received the silver medal after finishing second with two wins and a loss in the final round but both teams clinched the two berths for Asia in the World Cup in Japan in November.

"Generally speaking, we played to our normal standard today," said Chinese head coach Di An'he after the match that lasted for one hour and 49 minutes. "But we had problems with our serving. We made too many mistakes in serving."

Despite the final score in the tiebreaker China had their chance when they stayed within 5-4 in the opening stages. But they suddenly lost their steam as South Korea pulled away with a 6-1 burst to make it 10-6. South Korea continued to enlarge the lead and clinched their fourth Asian Championship title.

South Korea opened with a 7-3 run in the match between the two traditional Asian Volleyball powerhouses. China pulled it back at 9-9 following several controversial calls in favor of them by Saudi Arabian referee Mohammed H.A but once the two sides had fought to a 25-25 draw, Zhang Xiaodong served into the net, giving South Korea their third set point. Then Shin Young-soo and Shin Sun-ho clinched the opener for South Korea by blocking China's ace spiker Shi Hairong.

Roared on by more than 8,000 home fans, China rallied in the second set. The Chinese ran off three straight points for a 22-18 advantage and held on to win the set 25-22.

The South Koreans were forced to the edge after China led all the way to take the third set, but they fought back into the game with tenacious defense, forcing the tiebreaker with the well deserved 25-21 win in the fourth.

Tang Miao's 23 points and libero Chu Hui's 12 digs were not enough to save China from their first loss at the tournament, which attracted 15 teams.

Shin Young-soo led South Korea with 21 points and Lee Kyung-soo and Yeo Oh-Hyun added six digs each.

Earlier on Friday, Iran beat Australia for the third place. Australia settled for fourth ahead of India. The top five finishers from the tournament will participate in the Athens Olympics qualifying tournament.