CARACAS, Venezuela, January 11, 2004 - Pan American champions the Dominican Republic joined Brazil, the United States and Cuba as one of the women's teams of the Americas to book a berth at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games after defeating Peru in straight sets 25-20, 25-18, 25-21 on the final day of the South American Women's Olympic Qualification tournament in Caracas on Sunday.
The Dominicans only needed to win one set to claim the Olympic ticket and that was soon in the bag despite some stern opposition from the Peruvians. The South Americans led 15-12 through the good performance of Romanova and Chihuan but could not keep their advantage due to the dominance of the tall and powerful Caribbean block.
Dominican setter Francia Jackson and attackers Milagros Cabral and Yudelkis Bautista were in great form along with the rest of the team coached by Cuban Jorge Garbey and after 59 minutes the Dominican Republic accomplished what they couldn't do at the NORCECA Olympic Qualifying tournament and had booked their place at Athens.
For Peru, the match signaled an end to the marvelous career of veteran Natalia Málaga, a world and Olympic medalist from Seoul 1988, after 25 years in the sport. She will continue working for Peruvian Volleyball as a coach.
In the other match on the final day, Argentina beat Venezuela 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-19) in 90 minutes and will play in the World Olympic Qualification tournament in Tokyo for another chance to gain a ticket to Athens.