China's women duos Tian Jia/Wang Jie and Zhang Xi/Xue Chen defeated their rivals respectively in Sunday's beach volleyball quarterfinals at the Beijing Olympics, making a breakthrough for China, a newcomer in beach volleyball tournament.
The two Chinese teams are to meet at the semifinal on Aug. 19, thus a silver medal is secured for China, whose best Olympic finish was ninth, achieved by Tian Jia and her former partner Wang Fei at the Athens Games.
In a match held on Sunday morning, Tian Jia and Wang Jie easily beat Austrian pair Doris Schwaiger/Stephanie Schwaiger in straight sets. Both sets ended 21-12.
The Chinese tandem dominated the match with strong serves and attacks, leaving the Austrian sisters no resistance most of the time.
"We played to our usual standard, and we didn't carry a burden today. We didn't think about anything, winning or losing," 1.87-meter-tall Wang said after the match.
Zhang Xi/Xue Chen beat Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs of the United States, becoming the second Chinese team in the semifinal.
"We didn't expect that we could have won so easily, but we prepared a lot for possible difficulties," said Xue after the match.
China's beach volleyball head coach Miao Zhihong said after the matches he was very satisfied with the performance of the Chinese players.
"They played to their best standard in the matches and they are playing better and better," he told Xinhua.
"If they give full play to their abilities, they can play well with any team in the world," he added.
In the past two years, the Chinese players have made remarkable progress through competitions at the international events, said Miao.
"Their abilities in various fields have been improved as a whole, the teamwork in particular," he said.
"They know how to encourage each other in case of disadvantages in the match," he noted.
In another semifinal, U.S. defending champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who have had a 106-match winning streak so far, won easily over Ana Paula Connelly and Larissa Franca of Brazil in straight sets 21-18, 21-15.
The Brazilian team was newly-formed. Ana Paula, 36, replaced Juliana Felisberta for the Beijing Games as Juliana is suffering from sharp pains on her right knee and decided days before the Olympics opened not to play.
Australia's Natalie Cook, who has played in medal matches in all three previous Olympics since beach volleyball was introduced into the Atlanta Games and had vowed to take a medal at her fourth Olympics, is not in the final four. The veteran, teamed up with Tasmin Barnett, was eliminated by Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro of Brazil 2-0 (24-22, 21-14).
(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)