USA’s Flint & Larsen all the way to gold at 2017 Tangshan Open
USA’s Kelley Larsen meets China’s Shuhui Wen at the net as Flint/Larsen earn their first ever FIVB World Tour medal with gold at the 2017 Tangshan Open
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The gold medal match saw Flint/Larsen up against China’s Shuhui Wen and Xinyi Xia, the pair that had beaten Tangshan Open top seeds Wang Fan/Yuan Yue the day before.
Flint/Larsen took the Chinese pair by surprise, coming out hard from the onset and gaining a five-point lead. Sh. H. Wen/X. Y. Xia went on the offensive and overtook at the midway point, but Flint/Larsen held on to take the first 21-19.
Flint/Larsen took control of the second leaving the Chinese team unable to get a foothold and closed the match for the gold medal, 2-0 (21-19, 21-12). Flint/Larsen did not drop a single set on their journey to the gold medal at the 2017 Tangshan Open.
The USA pairing came together in 2014 and played in their first FIVB World Tour tournament of the 2017 season.
USA’s Kelley Larsen (left wearing yellow) and Betsi Flint and China's Shuhui Wen in the Tangshan Open gold medal match
“We’re so excited, this was a great tournament with some really good teams and thought Bets and I came out here and played really well against each and every team. We worked hard, came from behind. We’re happy to be here, it’s a cool set-up, cool environment and we’re so glad that we won gold,” said Larsen.
“It’s our first FIVB tournament of the year so we’re excited to start off strong,” said Flint.
“The first set was pretty back and forth, they did a great job siding out. We got a good comeback towards the end and I think that gave us momentum to go into the second game. We capitalized on some good opportunities and took care of business. China played awesome, they’re a great team, but I’m very happy with how we played,” said Larsen.
Silver for Sh. H. Wen/X. Y. Xia is their first ever FIVB World Tour medal with the team pairing up for the first time in 2017 and Tangshan their debut FIVB World Tour event. Shuhui Wen is actually playing in her first ever FIVB tournament, previously only visible on China’s national tour. Xinyi Xia is the more experienced of the two, previously gaining valuable experience playing alongside 2008 Beijing Olympic Games bronze medallist, Chen Xue.
China’s Shuhui Wen (left) and Xinyi Xia earn silver at Tangshan Open
“Even though we lost the match today, I still think we have done great here. We kept going all the way even though we felt quite tired and we have also learnt a lot from our opponents. This is our first World Tour event together and we got the silver medal, so we’re really happy for this memorable experience,” said Xia.
The bronze medal went to Ieva Dumbauskaite and Monika Povilaityte from Lithuania who faced Martina Bonnerova and Sarka Nakladalova (CZE) in a match of wits, 2-1 (25-23, 17-21, 15-7).
Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte knew they had a match on their hands as Bonnerova/Nakladalova took silver in the FIVB one-star event in Langkawi, Malaysia in April this year. The first set was closely fought with the Czech team pushing the score all the way, but unable to crack Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte.
The second saw little between the two teams and the Czech team again pushed the score, sending the match into the tie break.
Dumbauskaite/Povilaityte dug deep in the third, starting confidently and again sending Bonnerova/Nakladalova on the chase. Despite the Czech’s saving two match points, the Lithuanian pair were too far ahead and claimed bronze, posting their best ever FIVB result.
Ieva Dumbauskaite (left wearing black) and Monika Povilaityte from Lithuania at the net against Sarka Nakladalova (CZE) in the bronze medal match
“It’s amazing, when we came to this tournament, it was going to be OK if we could be in the top 16, and now we have bronze medal in FIVB tournament, I can’t believe it. It’s perfect,” said Dumbauskaite.
“It was a really tough match because the Czech team is really good and we feel like underdogs, but we fought and one more thing, I think we wanted to win more, so that’s why we won,” said Dumbauskaite.
The Silk Road Tour will continue in Nantong running from June 23-25. The Tangshan Open venue will then play host to the FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships from July 11-16.
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