London, Great Britain, July 28, 2012 – Playing under the lights, USA’s two-time defending women’s Olympic Champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh closed the first day of the London 2012 Olympic Games with a pool play match victory over Australia’s five-time Olympian and 200 gold medalist Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley in the purpose-built, sold-out 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parade as the majestic venue includes a portion of adjacent St. James Park in historic central London.
Treated as graciously by the mostly British crowd as the nearby royalty in Buckingham Palace, the inspirational May-Treanor/Walsh, one of 24 teams in each gender competing in London, ended the third session of the day with an electric, crowd-enthralling win over Australia’s Cook/Hinchley, 21-18, 21-19 in 40 captivating minutes. The Americans now have a 4-0 international record against the Australians.
Round round pool play continues with three sessions on Sunday starting at 9 a.m. and continuing to the final match of the day starting at 11 p.m. with the other 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams playing their first matches of these Olympic Games.
After several days of practice at the inspirational iconic venue, the 24 teams in each gender took to the sand for real starting Saturday in the magnicificent purpose-built 15,000 stadium that rests in the shadow of legendary British Army commanders-in-chief memorial statues and the next door neighbor of No. 10 Downing Street, better known as the home of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
During an evening of intense and exciting Olympic beach volleyball that no one wanted to see end, USA’s May-Treanor recorded one ace serve, 14 kills, and 14 digs while her golden teammate Walsh had 12 kills, four blocks, and 12 digs. For Australia, Cook had 19 kills and 16 digs and Hinchley had seven kills, four blocks and three digs.
Extending their undefeated record to 15-0 in the Olympic Games history, Walsh said following the match, “It was a battle and we had to focus on one point at a time. Both teams played well, but that was the most consistently solid match we’ve had. Both teams respect each other so much. I don’t have enough good words to say about the venue. Is so much more beautiful than any other. It was gold out there playing at 11 p.m, so we decided to wear the long tops.”
In the other women’s match in the third and final session of the opening night, Switzerland’s 11th-seeded Simone Kuhn/Nadine Zumkehr stopped Greece’s 14th-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti/Maria Tsiartsiani, 21-13, 21-19 in 39 minutes.
Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana/Larissa pull pool play win
Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca opened their London 2012 Olympic Games women’s beach volleyball competion Saturday late afternoon, concluded the second of three four-match sessions in a sold-out, purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium at the iconic Horse Guards Parade in central London with an impressive straight set victory over Maritius‘ 24th-seeded Elodie Li Yuk Lo/Natacha Rigobert.
Displaying the form, focus and talent that has made them the most feared team in women’s beach volleyball, Brazil’s six-time FIVB SWATCH World Tour champions and 2011 FIVB SWATCH World Champions Juliana/Larissa overpowered Mauritius‘ 24th-seeded Elodie Li Yuk Lo/Natacha Rigobert in straight sets, 21-5, 21-10 in 30 minutes.
Improving to 2-0 all-time against Mauritius‘ Li Yuk Lo/Rigobert, Brazil’s talented Juliana/Larissa played a typically powerful match, with both players recording three aces each, Juliana adding 18 kills and nine digs and Larissa contributing 8 kills, one block, 11 assists and as a pair they only had four hitting errors in the match.
In her first Olympic Games after missing in 2008 after qualifying with Larissa, but injuring her knee, Juliana said after her match, “It was great. I played well and I didn’t worry about our opponents. We treat every match as if it is the final. In our next pool play match on Monday we play Germany and they are tough opponents, but we don’t think our worry about our opponents. I’m so excited to be here in my first Olympic Games, my heart was a little wiggly when I went out to the court with all those people there and remember that this is the Olympics. My eyes watered a little because of my injury in 2008. I have come back and I am a new player, a different person and I am looking forward to this entire experience .”
In the other women’s match of the second session on Saturday, Czech Republic’s 10th-seeded Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova came from behind to defeat Austria’s 15th-seeded Doris Schwaiger/Stefanie Schwaiger, 10-21, 21-13 and 15-13 in 48 minutes.
Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova upset China’s Xue/Zhang
Adding even more drama and excitment to the opening day of the London 2012 Olympic Games women’s beach volleyball competition being held in a sold-out, purpose-built 15,000-seat stadium at the iconic Horse Guards Parade in central London, the opening match of the competition saw a three-set thriller Saturday morning, Russia’s youthful 23rd-seeded Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakova upset China’s second-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang starting the first of three sessions.
In the stunning upset to get things going Saturday, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova dominated a team that is expected to be seriously in the gold medal hunt who also won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. And to make the victory even more dramatic, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova had to come from behind to pull out the three-set victory in 53 minutes, 18-21, 21-14 and 16-14.
It was the first meeting between the two teams and after China’s Xue/Zhang won a close first set 21-18 where it seemed that the Chinese weren’t playing at their normally high level, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova, playing like they had nothing to lose, came back in the second set for a relatively easy 21-14 win before the thrilling overtime tiebreaker set. In the third set, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova jumped out to a commanding 8-3 lead only to watch the powerful Chinese reel off five straight points to tie it at 8-8. After pulling back ahead at 12-11, Russia’s Vasina/Vozakova saw China’s Xue/Zhang scored three straight and take a 14-12 lead, but the less experienced Russians stopped four consecutive match-point attempts by the Chinese duo, ending the match with two impressive blocks by Vasina over Zhang’s kill attempts.
Statistically, Russia’s Vasina had two aces, seven successful attacks, and nine blocks while Vozakova contributed four aces, 21 successful attacks, and 18 digs. For China, Xue had four aces, 12 successful attacks, three blocks and eight digs and her teammate Zhang had two ace serves, 24 successful attacks and 10 digs.
A happy Vasina said afterwards, “The key to winning this match was our serve, we really took risks with that and it helped us beat a great team.”
Vozakova commented, “I think I was a little bit nervous and got confused in the first set. I tried to do the blocking instead of Anastasia and when we switched back it really, really helped us and she had so many blocks.”
A very disappointed Zhang said after her team’s loss, “I did not feel right before the match and maybe our preparation wasn’t right. We must focus better on our next match against Switzerland on Monday. The Russians played really great. There’s been a lot of pressure on us and we made a lot of mistakes, particularly with saves.”
In the other women’s match in the first session of the day, Germany’s 12th-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler defeated Czech Republic’s Lenka Hajeckova/Hana Klapalova, 21-16, 21-18 in 34 minutes.
The tandems in London have been split equally into six pools, playing each team in their group, with the top two advancing to the single-elimination knockout phase that begins on August 3 along with the two best third-placed teams. The remaining four third-place teams will then compete in playoff matches to determine which pairs will fill the final two places in the 16-team eliminaation bracket’s first round.
Sixteen teams qualified for the Games through the Olympic Ranking which is based primarily on world tour standings, with five more joining as winners of the AVC, CAVB, CEV, CSV and NORCECA Continental Cup Finals and two from the World Cup Olympic Qualification Tournament. Great Britain has also been granted a berth as hosts.
The sold-out beach volleyball competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games is being held through Aug. 9 in a purpose-built 15,000-set stadium on the grounds of the iconic Horse Guards Parade in central London. For current information, visit www.fivb.org.
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