Home heroines start Olympic campaign with a win
2012 Olympic Games
London, Great Britain, July 29, 2012. After four women’s matches that all went three sets, a pair of top-seeded teams flexed their muscles Sunday night to earn two-set victories as all 12 remaining teams opened pool play to close the second day of beach volleyball of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the purpose-built, sold-out 15,000-seat stadium on the grounds of the historic iconic Horse Guards Parade as the majestic venue includes a portion of adjacent St. James Park in historic central London.
USA’s fourth-seeded Jennifer Kessy/April Ross and Brazil’s fifth-seeded Maria Antonelli/Talita Antunes powered on like the British Cavalry through opponents from the Netherlands and Argentina respectively easily proving themselves worthy of marching on the hallowed grounds of British history.
USA’s Kessy/Ross ending the women’s competition for Sunday by defeating Argentina’s 21st-seeded Ana Gallay/Maria Zonta, 21-11, 21-18 in 36 minutes after Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes started the march by overcoming Netherlands’ 20th-seeded Madelein Meppelink/Sophie van Gestel, 21-10, 21-19 in 36 minutes.
Treating all four teams with dignity and support, the enthusiastic packed house encouraged the teams to reach another level even in rather one-sided matches in what was the first meeting between the Americans and the Argentinians while Brazil’s Antonelli/Antunes now have a 2-0 international career record over Netherlands’ youthful Meppelink/van Gestel.
After just missing a spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, USA played with emotion and passion as Kessy statistically was credited with two ace serves, 16 kills, one block and eight digs while her teammate Ross had three aces, nine kills, one block and four digs en route to the first Olympic victory. For Argentina, Gallay had one ace serve, nine kills and one block and Zonta had three aces, eight kills and six digs.
A visibly emotional Ross, who had tears stream down her cheeks during the match as she soaked in the impact of what was all going on, said after her team’s win: “We didn’t play our best, we need to look at some things but I think our emotions of where we are and where we have been impacted us a lot. People ask why I so often touch my heart twice after plays. One touch is for God and one is for my mom who passed away in 2001 but I know she is watching down on me. The atmosphere was over the top. I have never felt so much energy in a beach volleyball match.”
Kessy said she has a large number of family members with her here in London and went on to say, “It feels at home out on the court. We’re really fortunate to have such support, I wasn’t nervous once I got out there and I felt like I had an entire nation cheering us on.”
While Great Britain deservedly earns a collective pat on the back of sincere gratitude from the international community for staging a remarkable XXX Olympiad, a partisan packed-in crowd cheering wildly as if it were a Premier League match, relished in the rain and roared in the sheer joy of appreciating the performance Sunday and pool play victory by their own British beach volleyball stars Zara Dampney/Shauna Mullin who pulled out a brilliant victory over Canada’s Marie-Andree Lessard and Annie Martin 17-21, 21-14 and 15-13 in 54 soggy, tear-stained minutes.
Left almost speechless, Mullin said afterwards, “It was really enjoyable. We had to put up a good fight and work really hard for it. So it’s nice to bring home the win. On match point, it was a case of ‘this is any point, it’s just one point’ and not to put any pressure on yourself, whatever happens we were going to battle to the end. This is beach volleyball which isn’t really a big sport in the UK, so to bring right to the center of London, one of the best venues of the Olympics and for us personally it is amazing. To look up and see the London skyline and know that we are in the heart of London and the heart of the UK is just incredible and inspiring.”
The first four women’s matches today went to the tie-breaker set, reflecting the level of intensity on the court. In the other women’s match in the midday session, Germany’s eighth-seeded Sara Goller/Laura Ludwig held off Australia’s 17th-seeded Louise Bawden/Becchara Palmer, 21-18, 19-21 and 15-8 in 53 minutes. The series history between the two teams internationally is now 3-3 after Germany’s win.
In the morning session’s first women’s match, Italy’s seventh-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti, the 2011 European champions, recovered from an opening set loss to beat Russia’s 18th-seeded Ekaterina Khomyakova/Evgeniya Ukolova, 17-21, 21-18 and 15-8 in 56 minutes. The Italians are now 5-1 in their international career against the Russian duo.
“In the second set we started to grow in confidence and we got it. It’s great to win at the Olympics, but is a long tournament,” said Cicolari. “It was the hardest game of our pool against a team that is really strong on the World Tour. We played well and we are really, really happy because we can play more relaxed now.”
In the other women’s match in the first session of the day, Spain’s Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo also got London 2012 off to a winning start. They were at their best to defeat reigning European champions Sanne Keizer and Marleen van Iersel 14-21, 21-16 and 15-11 in 51 minutes. The Spaniards improved their international career record against the Dutch to 3-7. “It was a very good win,” Baquerizo said. “The first set we made too made errors and they served, very, very well and we did not get our confidence”.
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