China's Zhang Xi and Xue Chen captured the beach volleyball bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday, defeating Brazilian pair Talita Antunes/Renata Ribeiro in straight sets.
They made history for China, whose previous best Olympic finish was ninth place by Tian Jia and her then partner Wang Fei at the Athens Games.
Zhang and Xue defeated the Brazilian duo 21-19, 21-17.
"I can't believe we earned the bronze medal," said Zhang, who, along with her partner Xue, is for the first time to compete at the Olympics.
"We readjusted our strategies when we once trail in the first set and we won the set," she said of a decisive turning point in the match.
The two sides traded scores in the first set but the hosts reached the match point at first and ended the set 21-19.
The second set was much easier for Zhang/Xue. They played more relaxed and scored frequently through serves, blocks and spikes. The Chinese once led the Brazilians six points in the second set and claimed the set 21-17 to net in the bronze medal.
In the past years, the Chinese pair has won four FIVB World Tour gold medals and was also 2006 Asian Games champions.
"Our techniques are not worse than them but we made a lot of mistakes," said Renato after the match.
"But we are very proud of our performance at the Olympics," said Renata, who, along with her partner, was making debut at the Olympics.
Antunes and Ribeiro, placing sixth on the Olympic qualification standing, had also been considered medal contenders. The pair is winner of five FIVB World Tour gold medals.
(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)