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Natalie Cook impressed with “great start to new season”

The Fuzhou Open podium - gold medallists China's Xue Chen and Xi Zhang, silver medallists Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerio of Spain and bronze medallists Germany's Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 29, 2013 - Earlier this year, Australian beach volleyball legend Natalie Cook predicted that China's Chen Xue and Zhang Xi would be a force to reckon with in 2013. Following the Chinese pair’s gold medal win at the recent Fuzhou Open, it looks that Cook’s forecast for the season may be right on the ball.

In this piece, Cook provides her thoughts on last weekend’s Fuzhou action and looks ahead to the first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event of the year – the Shanghai Grand Slam.

“It was a great start to the new season with the highly entertaining Fuzhou Open in China.

“Chen Xue and Zhang Xi were deserved winners and I predicted the Chinese to be dominant this year. They breezed through this first event, played some very impressive beach volleyball on their way to winning the tournament and a China win in China is a great accomplishment.

“There were some interesting results, which is to be expected after a long break and post-London Olympics.

“The new teams from Brazil are finding their way, while some of the teams that have been together for a while have risen to the top, notably the Germans, the Spanish side of Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo who won silver, Italy and the second Dutch team of Sophie van Gestel and Madelein Meppelink who overthrew the other higher ranked and more experienced Dutch pairing of Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer.

“Summer Ross was one of the new faces that made a mark during the Fuzhou Open. She is only 20, fared well in age-group tournaments, has already played a few tournaments and in Fuzhou she and Brittany Hochevar enjoyed a good win over the Czech pair Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolokova in the pool stage.

“Her namesake April Ross and her long-time partner Jennifer Kessy will be hoping to bounce back at the next tournament, the Shanghai Grand Slam, the first FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour competition of the year. They will be trying to make up for their elimination by Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler in Fuzhou, but I still think that Chen Xue and Zhang Xi will be too good for everyone.

“I also look forward to seeing how the Brazilian teams fare. They have led the way for a number of years now, but with Juliana Felisberta and Larissa Franca no longer still together there is the chance for one of the new Brazilian pairings to establish themselves at the top of the sport and I look forward to seeing which one breaks through first.”

Natalie Cook became the first Australian women to participate in five successive Olympic Games and is the only women to play in all five Olympic beach volleyball events. After making her debut on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 1993, Cook went on to win a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics and 2000 Olympic gold with Kerri Pottharst, before finishing fourth in Athens, fifth in Beijing and retiring after a 19th-place finish at the London Olympics. She is now running her own company Sandstorm which runs Oz Volley and Surf Volley programs, whilst ensuring new beach volleyball courts are being built off the beach to support the demand and the growth of beach volleyball.

Other FIVB Blogs

Sandra Pires – “2013 can be anyone’s year” says Sandra Pires
Andrea Zorzi – Andrea Zorzi looks forward to this year’s World League action
Stacy Sykora – Women’s volleyball looking forward to bumper year
Natalie Cook –
Keep an eye on the Chinese in 2013
Hugh McCutcheon – Feeling good about US women’s coach
Martin Laciga – It's time to pass the ball to younger players
Tom Hoff – This is volleyball, and anything can happen

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