Women's Olympic Games 2004
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28 August
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China crowned 2004 Olympic champions
Athens, Greece, August 28, 2004 – World number three China pulled off a miraculous comeback from two sets down to beat Sydney 2000 silver medalists Russia 3-2 (28-30, 25-27, 25-20, 25-23, 15-12) and claim the ultimate prize – the gold medal – in a stunning final at the 2004 Olympic Games women’s Volleyball competition in the Peace and Friendship Stadium on Saturday.
It is China’s second Volleyball gold medal following their first triumph in 1984 and is a vast improvement on their fifth place finish in Sydney four years ago. For Russia (formerly the USSR) they miss out on their fifth women’s Olympic Volleyball gold having won the title already in 1968, 1972, 1980 and 1988 and it is their second successive silver after losing to Cuba at Sydney 2000.
The gold medal capped an amazing 14 months for China, having won the World Cup and World Grand Prix titles in 2003 and was all the more impressive considering their tallest player at 196cm Ruirui Zhao had missed most of the tournament due to injury.
“We are very happy,” said Chinese captain and MVP Feng Kun. “Obviously this has been a target for four years and we kept on going until the final point. It was a great performance by everyone, we had great solidarity and we kept playing through the tough times, and that is what brought us the gold.”
The final represented everything that the women’s competition has entailed - beautiful skill, matched with awesome power and ability - with the score drawing level 50 times during the match. Russia were at their magnificent best but China, in an excellent prelude to Beijing 2008, were up to the task claiming the tiebreaker in a thrilling finish.
“After we lost the first two sets I told the players never mind because we haven’t lost the match,” said Chinese coach Zhonghe Chen. “I told them we weren’t playing that bad and to keep on going because we were getting better and better as the match went on.”
Earlier Cuba, who were the champions of the last three Olympics, collected the bronze medal after beating Brazil 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 14-25, 25-17).
"Obviously, it is very difficult to follow the long and victorious history of the Cuban team,” coach Luis Felipe Calderon said. “It is a beautiful experience to have young people who follow the example of their previous co-athletes. Our goal was to reach the six best teams of this tournament and we gained the bronze medal. We are very happy."
The men’s final will be held on Sunday with Italy playing Brazil at 14:30 straight after the bronze medal match between Russia and USA at 12:30.
Gold awaits for China or Russia
ATHENS, 27 August – Sydney 2000 silver medalists Russia and World Cup title holders China will face off in a fascinating clash for gold in the final of the Olympic women’s Volleyball competition on Saturday.
While Russia finished second four years ago, China were silver medalists in Atlanta in 1996. This time one of the two will celebrate winning the gold medal.
Russia will start as favourites with their taller and more physical approach likely to be a daunting obstacle to overcome for a Chinese side, which relies on agility and team work to undo the best defence and offence. The great setting from captain Feng Kun is also a match winner.
China beat Russia in straight sets (25-15, 25-16, 28-26) in the opening match in Preliminary Round but Russia is coming off a thrilling semifinal win over Brazil in a final set tiebreaker 3-2 (18-25, 21-25, 25-22, 28-26, 16-14), despite trailing at one stage by two sets to nil.
The Europeans boasts the two top scorers of the competition so far, in Ekaterina GAMOVA (RUS) and Lioubov SHASHKOVA (RUS), and are also the best team in the top blockers ratings.
However, China are the best team in terms of statistics. They head four different statistical categories; top spikers, top servers, non-scoring diggers and non-scoring receivers.
Hao YANG (CHN) is the fourth highest scorer of the tournament so far, while Ping ZHANG (CHN) is top of the spiking efficiency rankings and Lina WANG (CHN) is top of the top server rankings.
China’s morale is also at high, as in the semifinals they were the team that put an end to Cuba’s 12 year dominance of the Olympic tournaments with a stunning five set win (25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 23-25, 15-10).
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.
ONS sk