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China Wins Women's Volleyball Gold
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China embraced its first volleyball Olympic title in 20 years after beating Russia 3-2 in the women's final on Saturday.


After trailing two sets down, China came from behind to trounce Russia 28-30, 25-27, 25-20,25-23 and 15-12 to claim the title.


The Chinese players dived to the floor to celebrate the well-deserved victory after Zhang Yuehong smashed home the match winner.


The last time they won a Olympic title was 20 years ago at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics.


The final is set to be a fantastic showdown for the two teams as both teams displayed terrific form before entering the final.



Russia, a power house in the sport, turned the tables in their semi-final match against Brazil when they were two sets down to their rivals before taking the final spot at 3-2.


But on Saturday night, it was China that played the role to turn the tables.


Zhang Ping led the Chinese team with 25 points, while Yang Hao added 21. Zhou Suhong and Zhang Yuehong had 15 apiece.


China got off to the better start, opening a 8-5 lead with Zhang Ping particularly effective on attack. Feng Kun and Liu Yanan also combined superbly for the China with two successful blocks.


But Ekaterina Gamova's three consecutive points helped Russia catch up to 18-18. After tied at 24-24, both teams beat off four set-points and it was Gamova, who had 9 points in the set, again spiked home the final point of the set for Russia.


Gamova had a total of 33 points during the two hours and seven minutes match.


The fans were treated to a frenetic pace in the second set with some beautiful blocking from setter Feng Kun and powerful attacking from backcourt of Zhang Ping giving China a slight advantage 10-8.


Russia replayed the scenario again at 15-17 as they made a 6-2 run, Gamova scored three points in a row to make it 22-20.


Chinese head coach Chen Zhonghe then made a inspired substitution, introducing wing-striker Zhang Yuehong into the court but only saw Russia charge home to claim the set.


Two blocks from Irina Tebenikhina and Lioubov Shashkova led Russia to a 26-25 advantage and an attacking error from China gave Russia the second set at 27-25.


Shashkova contributed 23 points while Tebenikhina had 14.


The Chinese team, who found themselves in a do-or-die situation, came out in the third set and quickly opened a 8-5 lead. Coach Chen was a lot more animated during his team talks and this had an immediate effect with Chen starting to find his attackers regularly, particularly Zhang Yuehong, who scored three points in a row to maintain the slight lead 17-14 for China. China's defence was also improved with Zhang Ping's blocks and libero Zhang Na who made some impressive diving saves.


With Zhang Ping's ace, China finally took one set back with 25-20.


China started the fourth set trying to gain an edge but Russia wouldn't surrender. China soon held the lead with 10-6 but Russia quickly answered back with a 5-1 run.


After tied at 20-20, both teams played more evenly, as Russia led at 23-21 before China, to the surprise of all, managed a 4-0 run. Russia's Gamova was still impressive in attack but this wasn't enough with China running out comfortable set winners to tie up the game with 25-23.


In the tie break and still neither team would budge, until Feng Kun scored with a spike to help China lead 5-3.


Russia made their last try at 11-12, but China started to gain the ascendancy, Yang Hao's consecutive points gave them the set. China eventually sealed the match with a Zhang Yuehong's excellent spike to fantastic scenes of jubilation.




(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2004)


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