Two golds for Latvia

2013-12-16 00:00

LATVIA’S Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs and China’s Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia claimed the gold medals at the FIVB Beach Volleyball Durban Open on Saturday.

The Latvians struck gold twice, also winning the 2013 FIVB World Tour title.

In an all-Latvian final, Smedins and Samoilovs defeated compatriots Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Solovejs 2-1 (15-21, 21-17, 15-10). Brazil’s Pedro Solberg and Bruno Oscar Schmidt won the bronze medal after their Czech counterparts pulled out of the match due to injury.

In the women’s final, Xue and Xia won back to back gold after winning the Phuket Open in early November, in only their third event as a team. The Chinese beat Germany’s Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude 2-0 (21-18, 21-18) in the final. USA’s Jennifer Kessy and Whitney Pavlik took the bronze.

Smedins and Samoilovs secured the 2013 FIVB World Tour ranking title in the morning and rounded off their trip to Durban with the tournament title later in the day. “To get two titles in the same tournament is pretty amazing. It feels very good,” said Smedins.

This is the pair’s third gold medal this year, adding to their two silvers and one bronze. Smedins and Samoilovs had to come back from one set behind, while Samoilovs was struggling with his physique. This was their fourth match of the day and after the semi-final against Brazil’s Pedro and Bruno, he got cramps all over his body.

Smedins had to relieve him at the block more than once and pulled out a few serve aces to keep the pressure on Solovejs and his former team-mate Plavins, with whom he won bronze at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Smedins and Samoilovs won the second set and created a lead from 5-5 in the tiebreak.

Solovejs, only in his fifth FIVB event and playing his first final, felt the pressure and started hitting the balls out. In the end, it was Smedins who secured the gold with a killer block on Plavins.

“It was very hard, because Aleksandrs had some problems with his health, I needed to block for him and serve strong otherwise we could not win,”said Smedins. “That’s why I am so tired right now and have also had cramps. It has been crazy.”

In the first set of the women’s final, both teams played point by point with the Germans targeting young Xia, but the 16-year-old stood her ground. From 15-15, the Chinese took the lead.

After winning the first set, Xia grew in confidence and set the audience on fire with some amazing digs. Laboureur and Sude started making too many unforced errors and at their first match point, Xue claimed the gold with a powerful spike.

It was their second medal in only three events together, Xue and Xia teaming up after Zhang Xi, Xue’s partner for eight years, decided to take a break at the end of the season. Zhang Xi and Xue had already won the Fuzhou Open, the World Championships in Stare Jablonki and the Grand Slam in Gstaad this year.

“When I knew I was going to play with Xia, I had to do more, I had to be better than before,” Xue said.

Xia is still in high school and started playing beach volleyball two years ago. “Playing in the final cheered me up and I want to play more games to improve myself and get more results,” she said.

The Durban Open was the last event on the 2013 FIVB calendar. Next year, Durban will host another double gender Open from December 10-14.

The 2014 season starts in April with the Fuzhou Open in China (22-27), followed by the Shanghai Grand Slam from April 29 to May 4. The 2014 calendar features 10 Grand Slams, an inaugural FIVB Grand Slam Final and 11 Open tournaments.

MEN’S RESULTS:

Semi -Finals : Smedins-Samoilovs LAT [3] v Pedro-Bruno BRA [2] 2-0 (28-26, 21-14); Kubala-Dumek CZE [16] v Plavins-Solovejs LAT [14] 0-2 (18-21, 14-21)

3rd Place : Kubala-Dumek CZE [16] v Pedro-Bruno BRA [2] injury team A

Final: Plavins-Solovejs LAT [14] v Smedins-Samoilovs LAT [3] 1-2 (21-15, 17-21, 10-15)

WOMEN’S RESULTS:

Semi - Finals : Pavlik-Kessy USA [3] v Laboureur-Sude GER [13]1-2 (16-21, 26-24, 12-15); Mersmann-Schneider GER [7] v Xue-XY Xia CHN [4] 0-2 (18-21, 15-21)

3rd Place : Mersmann-Schneider GER [7] v Pavlik-Kessy USA [3] 0-2 (34-36, 18-21)

Final : Xue-XY Xia CHN [4] v Laboureur-Sude GER [13] 2-0 (21-18, 21-18).

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