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China, Latvia steal the show at big Durban tournament

The FIVB City of Durban Beach Volleyball Open for men and women held at New Beach had brought the curtain down on international volleyball competition for the 2013 season.

The World Series event which begins in April and ends in early December is staged, much like Formula One motor racing, in several countries through out the world. South Africa is the only African country to stage such a volleyball event, writes Donovan Nair.

Hosted by Volleyball South Africa and promoter Sunil Geness of Johannesburg based Geness Consulting, the event attracted a strong field of the world’s best players who pulled out all the stops to lay their hands on a slice of a whopping $150┬á000 on offer as prize money shared equally among the men and women’s teams.

Victorious line-ups eventually came from China (women) and Latvia (men).

The thrilling women’s final between the Chinese pairing of Chen Xue and her 16-year-old high school student partner, Xinyi Xia and the hard hitting Germans Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude tipped in the favour of the former who skilfully capitalised on their opponents’ unforced errors in pressure situations to march ahead with a┬á (21-18 21-18) win.

With senior partner Chen Xue playing the dominant role at the net and shielding her young partner from facing the wrath of the German attacking machine the duo kept the score board ticking slowly in their favour. However, pressure from the Germans would have yielded a first set victory had it not been for ÔÇ£nerves of steelÔÇØ from youngster Xia who relentlessly chased every ball that came off her partner’s block and converted them into attacking options.

At the tender age of 16 Xia is already playing on the international beach volleyball circuit for the second successive year.

Continuing with their winning ways after having won gold at the FIVB Phuket Open in November Xue and Xia closed proceedings in a thrill-a-minute final to walk away with the $21┬á000 winners’ cheque.

In an all-Latvia men’s final between Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilous and Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Slovejs, the former duo bounced back after being thrashed by a 21-15 margin in the opening set to even matters with a hard fought 21-17 score line.

With Samoilous struggling with fatigue and the occasional cramping Smedins took charge of the crucial third set and fought courageously to keep their hopes alive of victory. Despite the challenges Samoilous faced he rose to occasion when opportunities presented themselves to score a quick point.

Smedins and Samoilous sank to the ground and raised their hands in gratitude to the heavens when Smedin’s power attack came off blocker Plavins’ out stretched hands and floated out off bounds. They recorded a 15-10 win to top the podium as the gold medallists.

At a post match interview with SuperSport TV Samoilous heaped praise on the medical team headed by Durban’s Dr Kevin Subban for making it possible for him to overcome bouts of cramping and fatigue to participate in the final. Samoilous and Smedins pocketed a handsome $21┬á000 for their efforts.

Pictured at the prize giving are:
Back row: Chantal Laboureur; Julia Sude (silver medallists, Germany); Chan Xue; Xinyi Xia (gold medallists, China); Whitney Pavlik; Jennifer Kessy (bronze medallists, USA)
Front row: Martins Plavins; Aleksandrs Solovejs (silver medallists, Latvia); Janis Smedins; Aleksandrs Samoilous (gold medallists, Latvia); Pedro Solberg; Bruno Oscar Schmidt (bronze medallists, Brazil)


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