SERBIA’S Brankica Mihajlovic attempts to block a smash from Mercy Sukuku of Kenya during their Pool ‘A’ match at the Ariake Arena.—Reuters
SERBIA’S Brankica Mihajlovic attempts to block a smash from Mercy Sukuku of Kenya during their Pool ‘A’ match at the Ariake Arena.—Reuters

TOKYO: After winning gold in Rio de Janeiro and coming to the Olympics five years later as one of the favourites, China’s women’s volleyball team is just trying to win a match in Tokyo.

The Chinese dropped their third straight match in pool play with a five-set loss to the Russian Olympic Committee team on Thursday that dealt another big blow to China’s medal chances.

After two straight-sets defeats, China finally rediscovered their mojo and even had a 2-1 lead against the Russians, who mounted a late comeback to win 25-17, 23-25, 20-25, 27-25, 15-12.

Coach Lang Ping’s team overcame three losses in five pool-play matches in Rio, but she knows the situation now is much more dire with China in fifth place in Pool ‘B’ with only one point through three matches. Only the top four qualify for the quarter-finals.

“Yes it is,” Lang said through an interpreter when asked if this was a more difficult situation than 2016. “But we’ll go try.”

The United States beat Turkey 3-2 to improve to 3-0 along with Italy, who beat Argentina in straight sets, in Pool ‘B’. Both teams have clinched spots in the quarter-finals.

South Korea outlasted the Dominican Republic in five sets and Serbia swept Kenya in the first two matches of the day in Pool ‘A’.

Brazil beat hosts Japan in straight sets. They and Serbia are both 3-0 through three rounds of pool play and have clinched spots in the quarter-finals.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2021

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