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Women's Volleyball: Gold for China over Stalwart Japan
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China's women volleyballers waltzed through the Asiad gold medal match against Japan, beating their arch rivals 22-25, 25-10, 25-23 and 25-16 to take home their third consecutive Asiad's gold medal on Tuesday.

This was the fourth clash for the two Asian powerhouses to meet in the Asiad final, with their last head-to-head final in Seoul in 1986 when China bagged the gold medal.

Due to a slow start and a string of errant strikes, China went down 5-1 early on. Japan continued its ascendancy from 8-2 to 12-5 with quick attacks and sound defense.

Though the Chinese women managed to rally thanks to ace hitters Yang Hao and Xu Yunli, the Japanese women, who have always been regarded mentally strong, stunted the Chinese bombardment with unyielding defense and kept leading from 17-12 to 19-13.

The Chinese women bounced back to run off four straight points for 17-19 but it was not enough to stop the Japanese from taking the set 25-22.

The Chinese spikers came back to life and unleashed a brilliant attacking wave from the start of the second set to establish a 6-2 lead and extended the winning momentum to tie at 1 set apiece by easily taking the second 25-10.

China took early leads 8-5 and 11-6 in the third set before Japan surged back to 14-14 with astonishing performance of its wing hitters Araki Eeika and Takahashi Miyuki.

The two sides fought fiercely, neither giving up, maintaining the tie at 22-22. Yet, the Chinese did not waver and sealed the set 25-23 with an unanswered spike.

The doughty Japanese still did not give up in the last set, keeping in touch at 8-8 tie. However, China, the dual World Cup and Olympic champions, showed their world-class caliber to seal the match at 25-16.

Earlier, Chinese Taipei downed Thailand in straight sets in the bronze medal match to take its first Asian Games' medal in women's volleyball.

South Korea, the silver medalist of 2002 Busan Asiad, beat Kazakhstan 25-20, 25-22 and 25-14 in a pride-saving match to finish fifth in the nine-team tournament, while Vietnam downed Mongolia in the 7th-8th playoff.

(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2006)

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