By Preechachan Wiriyanuparppong
The sensational 25-19 25-17 25-13 triumph with incredible unbeaten record stretched the China’s invincibility to eight. They had already claimed seven gold medals in the quadrennial sports extravaganza including four times in a row from 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010, but went down to hosts Korea in the final showdown in the previous Games in Incheon four years ago.
China, fully loaded with seven players who competed in the Rio Games gold-winning side led by star spiker Zhu Ting, Gong Xiangyu and Liu Xiaotong, made a storming start in the first set, with the high-flying Zhu spearheading the team’s defence. Zhou, 194cm tall, used her height advantage to overcome the smaller-built Thais with her exceptional attacks and put her team in front with a 3-point advantage at 19-16.
From then on, China dominated the whole game, while the Thais were utterly outclassed and lost the set 19-25. The world No.1 still combined extreme power through Zhu’s fine attacks and solid block by the 199cm Yuan Xinyue and Yan Ni to seize the 7-2 lead for good in the second set, while Thailand had to battle hard, trailing by five points at 5-10 and despite their sturdy challenge, the going got tough. The Chinese went on their fine attacks to snatch the second set 25-17.
Thailand, also undefeated en route to the Saturday’s final clash, gradually pulled their game together for a attempted comeback in the third set, but failed to make the grade. China were well in control to win the one-sided set 25-13, match and the gold medal. China reigned supreme over the 18th Asiad volleyball competition, while Thailand picked up maiden silver, the medal they have never won in 56 years since the competition debut in 1962 in Jakarta.
Title-holders Korea came in third place after powering past Asian champions Japan 3-1 in the third-place playoff. The competition venue was fully packed to its 3,000-seater capacity. IOC President Thomas Bach and FIVB and AVC Honorary Life President Mr Wei Jizhong also watched the final match inside the venue and shook hands with Thai players after the match.