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Beach Volleyball: U.S. Men Win Easy

September 19, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Americans Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong kept their medal hopes alive in men’s beach volleyball, splitting two consolation matches but appearing certain to advance.

They scored a quick 15-2 victory over France’s Jean-Philippe Jodard and Christian Penigaud in their first consolation match Tuesday, then lost 15-11 to top-seeded Julien Prosser and Lee Zahner of Australia.

Despite the loss, Heidger and Wong looked certain to advance with the best point difference, plus 7, among the teams that dropped their second consolation matches.

There was one consolation match remaining _ Fabio Diez and Javier Bosma of Spain vs. the Czech pair of Michal Palinek and Martin Lebl, who were second in point difference with plus 5.

The victory automatically put Prosser and Zahner in the final 16, along with Oliver Stamm and Nikolas Berger of Austria, who defeated the Australian duo of Matthew Grinlaubs and Joshua Slack 15-10.

Heidger and Wong crushed Penigaud and Jodard in less than 20 minutes in their first match Tuesday.

The match ended the beach volleyball careers of Jodard and Penigaud, who previously announced that 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.″

Against Prosser and Zahner, the Americans stormed to a 9-4 lead, then saw the Australians battle back to tie them at nine and forge ahead. By scoring nine points, Heidger and Wong apparently had secured their spot in the final 16.

Prosser and Zahner defeated Norway’s Jan Kvalheim and Bjorn Maaseide 15-12 in their first consolation match. After that match, Kvalheim announced his retirement.

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.

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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