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From flag-bearer to Finnish front-runners

Miro Määttänen (right) with a Mikasa reception in Sunday's match against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as Finnish partner Santeri Siren awaits the pass.

Nanjing, China, August 17, 2014 - When the joy of being an Olympic flag-bearer for Finland at the opening ceremonies of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Games faded away, Santeri Siren felt another sense of victory when he and his partner Miro Määttänen won their first pool play match here Sunday at the Beach Volleyball venue in in the Nanjing Sports Park Complex.

“It is really a good start,” said the coach Kai Liukkonen, a competitor on the FIVB World Tour in the early 2000s, about his team’s 2-0 (21-11 and 21-11) win 26 minutes over Rodall Fraser and Delshun Welcome of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  “And a good start means a lot.”  For the 18-year old Määttänen, “it was good, but a win is a win.  We can do better in the following matches.”

Although they were a new combination for just three month, they have a great cooperation what came from their hard training.  Määttänen spoke highly of his 18-year old partner Siren by saying “he played very well, especially his servicing and blocking.”

It has been 10 years since Santeri and Määttänen began playing as Volleyball players and this summer they started to play beach volleyball.  Siren said “Beach Volleyball is everything for me.  It’s so relaxed and fun.”

The two Finns are schoolmates and they have been friends for six years.  It can be the family factor that they have the same favorite sport. Määttänen’s brother (Marko) is also a Beach Volleyball player while Santeri’s mother played Volleyball.

Once the Beach Volleyball competition is completed for the Fins, Siren and Määttänen plan to tour Nanjing and the surrounding areas.  But first, the young Finns have four more pool play matches starting with a Monday against Marco Cairus and Mauricio Vieyto of Uruguay, who opened play Sunday with a 2-0 (21-12 and 21-12) win in 28 minutes over Samiei Al Hammadi and Ahid Al Sahi of Oman.

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