Women's Olympic Games 2004
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26 August
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New champ guaranteed as Cuba gets beaten in semis
Athens, Greece, August 26, 2004 – Sydney 2000 silver medalists Russia will have the chance to go one better against world number three China in the final of the 2004 Olympic Games women’s Volleyball competition after both teams won breathtaking semifinal matches on Thursday.
In the first semifinal, Russia made an incredible come back from two sets down to beat favourites Brazil 3-2 (18-25, 21-25, 25-22, 28-26, 16-14). The World Grand Prix champions from South America, who knocked out world number one USA in the quarterfinals, looked as though they had a final berth signed and sealed at the end of the fourth set when they held a 24-20 lead. But, Russia pulled off an amazing comeback to send the game into the tiebreaker before fighting back from 13-10 down in the fifth set to claim an incredible victory.
“We are very happy and more than satisfied,” said 32-year-old Russian substitute Olga Nikolaeva. “We were really tense during the sets, but we had the courage to turn things around and qualify for the final.”
“It will be very hard to sleep at night, it will not be easy,” Brazilian coach Jose Guimaraes said. “Nevertheless, it is no use crying over spilt milk. We will go for the bronze and defend Brazilian Volleyball, which is actually going very well.”
In the second semifinal, World Cup titleholders China reversed an earlier 3-2 loss in the Preliminary Round by claiming a spirited five set victory (25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 23-25, 15-10) over Cuba, who were aiming for their fourth successive Olympic title despite sporting a young and inexperienced team.
It was a tremendous effort from the Cubans after it looked as though the semifinal would be over in three sets. But they showed great determination to win sets three and four before finally conceding defeat.
“We played against a very strong Chinese side,” said Cuban coach Luis Felipe Calderon. “They played a well organised game and that’s what made them win. Our team was rebuilt after the Sydney Olympics, so all our players are young and they need to play more in order to mature. Nevertheless they knew how to react when necessary and they showed that they have it. We will try the best we can against Brazil in the match for bronze.”
The final on Saturday will see Russia play China at 20:00 straight after the bronze medal match between Brazil and Cuba at 18:00.

Russia, Brazil kick off semifinals
ATHENS, 25 August – Sydney 2000 silver medalists Russia go head-to-head with world number two Brazil when the semifinals of the Women's Olympic Volleyball tournament get underway at the Peace and Friendship Stadium on Thursday at 19:30.
The opening match promises to be a thrilling contest with World Grand Prix champions Brazil led by scoring machines Erika COIMBRA and Virna DIAS, while Russia are guided by Ekaterina GAMOVA and Lioubov SHASKOVA, who are the two best scorers of the tournament.
Brazil's playing style is based on quick attacks and efficient spiking while Russia depends on an impressive blocking game.
Cuba, who are champions from the last three successive Olympics, take on China at 21:30 in the other semifinal, their second match up in the tournament. China lost to Cuba in a thrilling tiebreaker in the preliminary round 3-2 (25-19, 22-25, 15-25, 25-21, 15-13).
Cuba has been the best-serving team of the tournament thanks to Zoila BARROS FERNANDEZ. They also have a “win-at-all-costs” mentality.
China has also produced some great serving. It is led offensively by Hao YANG, while So Yun CHANG adds strength in blocking.
The semifinal winners will advance to the final on Saturday at 20:00. The losers face off for the bronze medal at 18:00.
ONS sk/jb