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28 Jul 2012
London 2012, Olympic News, Beach Volleyball
London 2012

Walsh and May-Treanor hit the heights - London 2012 - Beach Volleyball

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh made the perfect start to their bid for a third successive Olympic Games Beach Volleyball gold medal with victory over Australia on the first day at Horse Guards Parade.

The duo, champions at Athens in 2004 and Beijing 2008, were made to work all they way for the win 21-18 21-19 against the Australian duo of 2000 gold medal winner Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley.

After the reigning champions edged a close first set, the second proved even more enthralling, with May-Treanor and Walsh trailing 13-9 at one stage.

A run of four straight points brought them back level, before the game ebbed and flowed the rest of the way.

Eventually, the USA pair came through on their first match-point chance, winning a brilliant rally which stood as a fitting conclusion to an exciting opening day.

The day began with an upset in the very first match as second seeds Xue Chen and Zhang Xi slipped to defeat against Russia in Pool B.

Xue and Zhang, bronze medallists in Beijing four years ago, are among the favourites for gold this time but made a poor start to their Olympic challenge as they fell to a 18-21 21-14 16-14 loss to Anastasia Vasina and Anna Vozakova.

China never looked at their best throughout the contest, and only just got across the line in a 20-minute opening set that could have gone either way.

The 21st-ranked Russians responded well in the next, taking the set comfortably, before the third - deciding sets are first to 15, rather than 21 - went to the wire.

China looked to be in charge when they gained two match points at 14-12, but some great defensive play saw the Russians pull back level, before they forced match point for themselves at 15-14, which was converted when Vasina's spike cannoned out of bounds off the helpless Zhang.

Six-time world champions Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva of Brazil demolished Natacha Rigobert and Elodie Li Yuk Lo of Mauritius 21-5 21-10 in Pool A, while the Czech Republic's Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova rallied to beat Austrian sisters Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger 10-21 21-13 15-13 in Pool C.

Germany's Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler posted a straight-sets 21-16 21-18 win over the Czech Republic's Lenka Hajeckova and Hana Klapalova in Pool A, while in the penultimate women's match of the day Switzerland's Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr beat Vasiliki Arvaniti and Maria Tsiartsiani 21-13 21-19.

In the men's tournament, heavily fancied Brazilians Ricardo Santos and Pedro Cunha started their campaign with a straight-sets win over Norway's Tarjei Skarlund and Martin Spinnangr in Pool F.

Ricardo is one of the great names of the sport and is bidding for a fourth Olympic Games medal - following on from his silver at Sydney 2000, gold at Athens 2004 and bronze in Beijing - and he and his team-mate looked in good form as they ran out 21-14 21-18 winners.

Also in Pool F, Great Britain duo Steve Grotowski and John Garcia-Thompson went down to a 21-19 21-13 defeat to Joshua Binstock and Martin Reader of Canada.

Earlier the men's tournament kicked off with an impressive win for Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Ruslans Sorokins in Pool D, while in Pool C, Germany's Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann defeated Russia's Konstantin Semenov and Serguei Prokopiev 21-19 21-17.

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