The FIVB beach volleyball Xiamen Open kicked off on Thursday as the first world tour event hosted in China this season. China is sending two new female pairs to the event this season: Xue Chen/Wang Xinxin and Xia Xinyi/Wang Yuanyuan.
The 2013 World Championships gold winner Xue Chen used to pair with Zhang Xi and Xia Xinyi, and now the 28-year-old beach volleyball star has a new partner, 19-year-old Wang Xinxin who launched her international competion journey in 2014.
Xia Xinyi, Xue Chen's former partner and the world's youngest title winner in 2013, starts her new career with 22-year-old Wang Yuanyuan. China's top duo Wang Fan/Yue Yuan, world number 21 and silver medalists in 2014 Xiamen event, have their eyes on podium finishes while facing strong competition from Brazilians who make up the dominant team of four pairs in Xiamen. All three of the Chinese teams are making their first FIVB World Tour appearance of the year.
Numerous changes have been made in the Brazilian women's team. Rio Olympics silver medalist Barbara Seixas De Freitas plays alongside Fernanda Alves. Josi/Lili enter Xiamen as top seeds and veterans Juliana Felisberta Da Silva and Carolina Solberg Salgado will play together for the first time in their opening tournament of the year. Juliana and Maria Antonelli won a previous Xiamen World Tour title in 2014. Maria is paired with Carol Horta this time in Xiamen.
Austria's Stefanie Schwaiger will aim for the Xiamen podium for the second year in a row after taking silver in 2016 with former partner Barbara Hansel. Schwaiger joins forces with Katharina Schutzenhofer this season.
On men's side, eyes will be on Rio Olympic silver medalists Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo from Italy among a strong field of contenders.
Challenging Nicolai/Lupo and making their 2017 debut is Dutch pair Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, the Rio 2016 bronze medalists. Both teams stood on the Xiamen podium in 2013 with Brouwer/Meeuwsen winning silver and Nicolai/Lupo taking bronze.
On the men's side, China is represented by the nation's strongest pair Ha Li kejiang/Bao Jian. Li Zhuoxin/Zhou Chaowei also feature in their first ever FIVB World Tour.
The 150,000 U.S. dollars event began with the qualification round on Thursday and the main draw will commence on Friday.
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