Russian girls cause major sensation in opening round at Horse Guards Parade
2012 Olympic Games
London, Great Britain, July 28, 2012. After several days of practice at the inspirational iconic venue of Horse Guards Parade, the 24 teams in each gender took to the sand for real starting Saturday in the magnificent purpose-built 15,000 Beach Volleyball 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 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 2000 gold medalist Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley (21-18, 21-19).
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. It is so much more beautiful than any other. It was gold out there playing at 11 pm, 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 Felisberta Silva/Larissa Franca opened their London 2012 Olympic Games women’s beach volleyball competition Saturday late afternoon with an impressive straight set victory over Mauritius 24th-seeded Elodie Li Yuk Lo and Natacha Rigobert. Improving to 2-0 all-time against their opponents, 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 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.
Adding even more drama and excitement to the opening day of the London 2012 Olympic Games women’s beach volleyball competition the opening match of the competition saw a three-set thriller Saturday morning where Russia’s youthful 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.
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”.
Partner Anna 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 it 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-placed teams will then compete in playoff matches to determine which pairs will fill the final two places in the 16-team elimination bracket’s first round.
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