London, Great Britain, August 1, 2012 – With four matches in Wednesday’s morning session, the last of three pool play matches were played to begin the process of setting the stage for the elimination bracket rounds as Day 5 began for the London 2012 Olympic Games beach volleyball competition.
All the crowd-pleasing, heart-pounding action is being held 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.
With two men’s and two women’s matches each session, Wednesday’s competition is featuring the last of three pool play round robin matches with half of the 24 total teams for each gender in action today.
Some teams were fighting to win their pools and gain a better placement in single elimination while others were battling not to be eliminated. A total of 16 teams in each gender will advance to the elimination rounds.
Continuing to bounce back from a stunning opening-day pool play upset at the hands of Russia’s 23rd-seeded Anastasia Vasina/Anna Vozakova, China’s second-seeded Chen Xue/Xi Zhang completed round robin play with a 2-1 record following their Wednesday morning two-set win over Greece’s 14th-seeded Vasiliki Arvaniti/Maria Tsiartsiani, 21-17, 21-16 in 40 minutes.
With both teams having to wait their final pool ranking until the other two teams in the pool meet in Wednesday’s afternoon session, China could finish first or second while Greece will either be third or fourth, based on tiebreakers. In the series between the two teams, China is now 6-0 against Greece. All four teams were 1-1 heading into Wednesday’s play.
In the stat’s department, China’s Xue led a well-balanced attack with three service aces, five kills, three blocks and three assists while Zhang recorded two aces, 24 kills and 12 digs. For Greece, Arvaniti had two aces, six kills and six digs and Tsiartsiani had 19 kills and one dig.
China’s Xue/Zhang, who won the bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, currently lead the point standings in the 2012 FIVB SWATCH World Tour where they have won three gold medals with three tournaments remaining after these Olympic Games.
After the victory, Xue said, “We have practiced a lot during the past four years and we also have come together more as a team. Four years ago we were the second team. This year we are the only Chinese team and there is a lot more pressure on us. But we will try to relieve some of this pressure on the court.”
On the men’s side, a captivating, nerve-wracking three-set match that closed the morning session saw Russia’s 22nd-seeded Sergey Prokopyev/Konstantin Semenov battle ferociously to hold off the gallant effort by China’s 10th-seeded Penggen Wu/Linyin Xu, 29-27, 17-21 and 15-12 in one hour, seven mintues, the longest match so far in London. Both teams finished 1-2 in pool play but because of tie-breaker rules, Russia will finish third and China fourth in their pool.
Statistically speaking, Russia’s Prokopyev had 28 kills and 18 digs and Semenov contributed 16 kills, one block and one dig. For China, Wu was credited with three aces, 28 kills and 17 digs and Xu with three aces, 12 kills and seven digs.
Following his team’s lengthy match, Prokopyev said “We had maximum concentration today. We had no plan B, there was only one aim and that was to win. The support from this big crowd was huge and made a bid difference in our win today.”
In the other men’s match of the session, Poland’s ninth-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel pushed away the attack from South Africa’s 21st-seeded Freedom Chiya/Grant Goldschmidt, winning in two sets, 21-19, 21-13 in 43 minutes. Here in London, Poland’s Fijalek/Prudel ended pool play with a 2-1 record while South Africa’s Chiya/Goldschmidt fell to 0-3 in the competition to finish fourth in their pool.
In the other women’s match of the morning session, Germany’s 12th-seeded Katrin Holtwick/Ilka Semmler overpowered Mauritius’ 24th-seeded Elodie Li Yuk Lo/Natacha Rigobert, 21-11, 21-10 in just 21 minutes. Germany’s Holtwick/Semmler finished pool play with a 2-1 record while Mauritius’ Li Yuk Lo/Rigobert finished with a 0-3 mark.
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