Women's beach volleyball semifinals will take place on Tuesday at the Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground and U.S. defending champions are expected to make it through.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have had a 106-match winning streak since last August. They are more solid and experienced and a win over Brazil's Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro in the semifinal is expected if the U.S. duo play to their usual standard. The Americans have a 4-0 win-loss record over the Brazilian duo.
The bigger question is: who will be playing against the defending champions in the final?
China has secured at least a silver medal in women's beach volleyball tournament as two Chinese duos have advanced to the semifinal and they will meet.
Asked how she felt playing with her compatriots in the semifinal, the 19-year-old Xue Chen said after they clinched a semifinal berth on Sunday that whichever team wins, it would be China's win.
That's maybe right at a great extent. But everybody knows that athletes are at the Olympics to compete for medal, and a gold medal if possible.
In previous matches at the Beijing Olympics, the 1.89-meter Xue and 1.84-meter Zhang Xi have shown their wallop and efficiency at the net and many outstanding beach volleyballers have said the young Chinese are a problem for them.
Australia's Natalie Cook, the 2000 Sydney Games gold medalist, put her money on Xue/Zhang. She said the final would be the most exciting when Xue/Zhang meets defending champions Misty May-Treanor in the final. "The Chinese are very young, but they are fearless," she has said.
The much more experienced Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs of the United States were edged out by the pair, who remained unbeaten at the Beijing Olympics so far, on Monday.
Their wallop will also be threatening Tian/Wang on Tuesday.
But unlike foreign players, their compatriots, also their elder sisters, must have known well about the advantage of their younger sisters given that the four do training together all year long.
Tian Jia, at her third Olympics, and her 1.87-meter partner Wang Jie, who also remained unbeaten at the Beijing Olympics, are expected to seek smarter ways to break the powerful attacks of Zhang/Xue.
Tian/Wang and Zhang/Xue met 21 times before and the former pair have a 15-6 record against the latter.
An encounter between Tian/Wang and May-Treanor/Walsh seems more likely if things go as usual in Tuesday's semifinals.
(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2008)