Questions were raised about the wisdom of their decision to miss the
Corrientes, The Hague and Rome Grand Slams to play in the ever-
popular China National Games and while they won their third pool
match it only set up a first elimination clash against Brazil’s Maria
Antonelli and Agatha Bednarczuk, who had gone through the pool
stage unbeaten and were looking in red-hot form.
The first seeds lived up to their status though and quickly found their
best form in a 2-0 win. From there they were soon into their stride
and didn’t look back. Vanuatu pair Elwin Miller and Henriette Iatika
gave them a fright in the first set of their last 16 match, Laura Ludwig
and Kira Walkenhorst were tough opponents in the quarterfinals and
they recorded another 2-0 win over Liliane Maestrini and Barbara
Seixas in the last four.
When the crunch came they didn’t falter, they wobbled, but remained
standing; they held their nerve, stuck to their plan and were rewarded
with gold medals.
Both Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen and Chen Xue
and Zhang Xi faced crucial moments throughout the tournament,
moments when lesser teams may have faltered.
For the Dutchmen it came when Ricardo Santos and Alvaro Filho
saved the first match point in the gold medal match. At that juncture
their inexperience, not only of finals, but of senior FIVB beach
volleyball in general could have come through and undermined their
efforts and allowed the Brazilians to mount a memorable fight back.
Instead they took deep breaths and refocused, received and put away
the second chance when it came, for a victory that few would have
predicted earlier in the tournament.
I really can’t describe this feeling,” Brouwer said in the aftermath. “I
think it will take a lot of time to get used to this feeling. I actually think
we won’t get used to it. It is the most amazing feeling. To play against
a team like Ricardo and Alvaro and to win, it is an incredible honour.”
The pair have been together since the start of 2011, but the closest
they have come to a podium finish was ninth place in this year’s four
Grand Slams and quarterfinal finishes at the season-opening Fuzhou
Open and the 2011 and 2012 CEV European Championships.
A little under two weeks before the start of the World Championships
they were talking about taking the next step in their career and
reaching Grand Slam quarterfinals. But now they have jumped ahead
a few places and fully established themselves as a team to fear.
By reaching the quarterfinals they will now be ranked among the ‘A’
status athletes by the Dutch Olympic Committee and with the 2015
World Championships set to take place in the Netherlands, Brouwer
and Meeuwsen are set to become ambassadors for the tournament,
their smiling faces and gold medals shining down from posters for
the next two years.
It is great that we are hosting the World Championships in 2015. We
were hoping to go for the medals in 2015, but then this happens,”
For Xue and Zhang Xi their moment came far earlier at the 2013
World Championships. After an opening win they slipped to a 2-0
defeat to Finnish twins Emilia and Erika Nystrom.
Even so, Xue and Zhang Xi were still conscious of the way they had
played at the start of the match ahead of the final.
We did not know if we would play well [in the final], because in our
first matches we did not play very well,” Xue said after winning.
But we improved step by step during the event.”
In the final Karla Borger and Britta Büthe were also eyeing a first world
title and showed classic German defiance to push Xue and Zhang Xi
harder than anyone else had in the elimination rounds. In fact it was
Borger and Büthe, who had the first match point, but once again when
they heat was on, the crowd got excited and the adrenaline flowed, the
Chinese stayed calmer than anyone else in the crowd of 9,000 people to
save the point and turned it around to earn a match point of their own.
I really can’t describe this
feeling,” Brouwer said in the
aftermath. “I think it will take a lot
of time to get used to this feeling.
I actually think we won’t get
used to it. It is the most amazing
feeling. To play against a team
like Ricardo and Alvaro and to
win, it is an incredible honour.