The Chinese women's volleyball team wrapped up the gold medal at the 15th Asian Games, the sixth of its kind since 1978, on Tuesday.
Chinese women's volleyball team cheer for their victory on Tuesday, December 12, 2006. [Photo: sina.com.cn]
After a one-and-half-hour tussle, China outpowered its arch rival 22-25, 25-10, 25-23, 25-16, led by 1.83-meter spiker Yang Hao, who contributed 21 points.
Chinese head coach Chen Zhonghe said his players did not play well due to underestimation on the endurance of their opponents, which caused the team to fell passive when Japanese started strongly in the first set.
The Chinese spikers came back to life and launched a brilliant attacking wave to take the second set 25-10.
The Japanese women, who have always been regarded mentally strong, did not give up despite the stunning loss and fought even more strongly. However, China, the World Cup and Olympics dual champions, showed their real quality to stunt the Japanese attempt to bounce back by taking the following two sets 25-23, 25-16.
"To win a gold medal in a comprehensive sports event like the Asian Games is never a piece of cake. I'm glad my players finally made it under high pressure," said Chen.
The win should take some of the sting out of China's fifth place showing at the World Championships in Japan last month, when Coach Chen was widely criticized to be too conservative to introduce new blood to the team, but relying on its old injury-haunted squad of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"I have been thinking of new lineup for a long time, but it is hard to get a right person at right time," said Chen. "But I was pleasant to see our two young players, 18-year-old spiker Wang Yimei and 19-year-old Xu Yunli played well at the games."
Earlier, Chinese Taipei downed Thailand in straight sets in the bronze medal match to take its first Asian Games' medal.
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.
Chinese men's volleyball team will face in-form Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at the semifinals. The latter is at peak after beating Japan, the top seeds of the tournament, in straight sets.