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Americans Score Beach Volleyball Win

September 19, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Americans Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong kept their medal hopes alive with a quick 15-2 victory over France’s Jean-Philippe Jodard and Christian Penigaud in Olympic men’s beach volleyball.

The victory in less than 20 minutes Tuesday (Monday night EDT) in the losers’ bracket allowed Heidger and Wong, seeded seventh, to play again later in the day with a chance to advance to the final 16.

It also ended the beach volleyball careers of Jodard and Penigaud, who previously announced the Olympics would be their final tournament. They confirmed that decision after losing the quickest match so far.

``You have to know when it’s time to stop,″ said Jodard, 34, a two-time Olympian. ``For us, it’s time. We’re not so young now.″

A loss would have ended the tournament for Heidger and Wong, following a first-round upset defeat in a match they led 14-9 before failing to convert five match points and falling 17-15 to Canada.

This time, they made sure of the result early, storming to an 11-1 lead after 14 minutes and finishing off the French with dominating net play that included six blocks _ four by Heidger and two by Wong.

The Americans _ both 6-foot-8 _ never gave Jodard and Penigaud openings, causing the French to try lobs and angle shots that went wide.

``We had to come out strong early and try not to let this team build momentum,″ Heidger said. ``I thought we stayed focused throughout and prevented them from getting any rhythm.″

It was the first time Heidger and Wong faced Jodard and Penigaud, and Heidger said he was sorry that it had to be in the final match for the French.

``It gets tough when you’re competing against someone you’ve established a personal relationship with,″ he said. ``I’m sorry we had to beat them in their final game. They’re a couple of class, great guys.″

With the victory, Heidger and Wong faced a second losers’ bracket match later Tuesday against top-seeded Julien Prosser and Lee Zahner of Australia, who lost their tournament opener in the biggest upset so far in beach volleyball.

Prosser and Zahner defeated Norway’s Jan Kvalheim and Bjorn Maaseide 15-12 in their first consolation match. Other consolation winners were Matt Grinlaubs and Joshua Slack of Australia over Mariano Baracetti and Jose Salema of Argentina, and Austria’s Nikolas Berger and Oliver Stamm over Andrea Raffaelli and Maurizio Pimponi of Italy.

Under the playback system, the 12 first-round losers compete for four places in the final 16, with the 12 first-round winners filling the other slots.

If Heidger and Wong had lost to the French, their tournament would have ended. A loss in the second match means they only could advance if they have a higher scoring difference than the other two teams vanquished in their second matches Tuesday. Two victories Tuesday guarantees entry to the final 16.

On Monday (Sunday EDT), teams from Germany, Italy, Cuba and China made it through the losers’ bracket to join both U.S. teams and the other first-round winners in the women’s final 16.

Jenny Johnson Jordan and Annett Davis, the third-seeded Americans, will face the Cuban duo of Tamara Larrea and Dalixia Fernandez Thursday (Wednesday night EDT). The Cubans beat China’s Zhang Jingkun and Tian Jia 15-12, then overpowered the Yanchulova sisters _ Lina and Petia _ of Bulgaria 15-3 on Monday to stay alive.

The other U.S. team, fourth-seeded Holly McPeak and Misty May, will meet Lucilla Perrotta and Daniela Gattelli of Italy, who advanced by beating Yukiko Ishizaka and Chie Seike of Japan 15-5 and then ousting Zi Xiong and Rong Chi of China 15-9.

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