HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam, September 27 -- Title holder China clinched the gold medal by downing Japan in straight sets at the 12th Asian Women's Volleyball championships here on Friday.
China also qualified for the World Cup slated for November in Japan, where hosts Japan have an automatic place. This opened the door for third placed Korea to take up the second berth in this tournament that is also the first Olympic qualifier.
China took the final 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-15).
"We played well today, generally speaking," said Chen Zhonghe, the head coach of China, "We are good at serving, attacking and blocking, but defense is just so so."
China made a flying start in the first set but the Japanese rallied to lead China at 14-11. Then the title holders hit a purple passage and made a 8-1 run, Yang Hao and Zhao Ruirui teamed up to take 6 points for China, which held on the lead to win the first set.
China took an early lead in the second set and kept the advantage until 20-16 when Japan capitalized on a slip of concentration by the Chinese lineup and had a brief resurgence, trading lead back and forth. Kurihara Megumi snatched three consecutive points to help Japan 23-24, then Sugiyama Sachiko gave the set away with a serving error and China walked off 25-23.
China then showed no mercy, taking firm hold of the decisive third set. They upset the Japanese with varied and elegant shots and blocks and closed out the match 25-15 with a brilliant block. Zhou Suhong scored six of China's final seven points. Zhao Ruirui and Li Shan teamed up to shut out Japan's attack in crutial aprts of the match.
Japan's head coach Shoichi Yanagimoto paid tribute to china saying they were worthy champions.
"China defended the title with all its power," said Shoichi, "They played very well today. My players also tried their utmost and I am satisfied with their performance."
Earlier, Korea beat Thailand to finish third. They had been deprived of their chance to play for the gold medal when they were beaten by Japan in straight sets in Friday's semifinals. Korea however made no mistakes in securing the bronze medal, outclassing Thailand in a clear 3-1 (23-25, 25-12, 25-12, 25-14) victory in 110 minutes. Thailand failed to match their 2001 result hen they defeated Japan for the third place.
The Thai team fared better in the first set, coming from a six-point deficit to equalize at 17-all. They then assumed the lead at 18-17 and went on to win the set 25-23.
Despite fine shots and big serving by the Thais, the stronger Korean lineup bounced back strongly allowing Thailand only 12 points in the second and third sets respectively, coming from behind to lead Thailand 2-1. Thailand held a brief lead in the fourth set but some shaky defense and some spiking errors cost them the match in the final stages.V
In the play-off for the 5th - 8th actions, Chinese Taipei beat Vietnam 3-0(25-18, 25-19, 25-12).The Vietnamese, well supported by the home crowd in the Phan Dinh Phung Gymnasium, got to a good start and held off the opposition until 5.all. Then Chinese Taipei took advantage of a string of errors and surged to 18-8 lead. Thailand fought back but the set finally went to Chinese Taipei 25-18. Chinese Taipei then allowed host Vietnamese only 15 points in the third.
Kazakhstan finished seventh by forfeit as the Philippine team had opted to return home early.
Final: China beat Japan 3-0(25-21, 25-23, 25-15)
Classification 3-4: Korea beat Thailand 3-1 (23-25, 25-12, 25-12, 25-14)
Classification 5-6: Chinese Taipei beat Vietnam 3-0(25-18, 25-19, 25-15)
5. Chinese Taipei
10. New Zealand
Best spiker: Takahshi Miyuki(Japan)
Best Server: Yang Hao (China)
Best blocker: Zhao Ruirui (China)
Best Receiver: Zhang Nai (China)
Best Setter: Takeshika Yoshie (Japan)
Best Digger: Fan Hsin Wen (Chinese Taipei)
Most valuable player: Zhao Ruirui (China)
Best Scorer: Choi Kwang Hee (Korea)
Miss Volleyball: Pham Kim Hue (Vietnam)