Beijing, June 6 (IANS) The Chinese women's water polo team claimed a hard-fought 8-7 victory over Russia in the final of the FINA world league super final to win their first major title Thursday.
The Chinese team, founded in 2004, are yet to win a medal of any colour at the Olympic Games, ranking fifth twice in Beijing and London. Their best performance was silver at the 2011 FINA world championships, reports Xinhua.
China beat Russia 13-10 in the last group match but met unexpected resistance in the rematch. The hosts took a 3-1 lead in the first period, but Russia clawed back to level 4-4 at the beginning of the third period.
The Chinese withstood the pressure in the end of the third period, making several attacks to regain a 7-5 lead.
In the tight last period, which could have gone either way, Russia pulled one back with two and a half minutes left. However, China sealed their 8-7 victory with good defense.
"We are so tired, but we felt happy after the triumph," said China's Russian head coach Alexander Kleymenov. "Our players lacked confidence and I think this gold medal will make them more confident when facing strong opponents in the future."
"The last period was very important as our players all wanted to win gold medal, they made several mistakes."
Remarkably, this year's tournament was very competitive as Russia was winless after three group matches, while China, despite two victories, only finished third in their group.
China found their rhythm in the knock-out stage, thrilling the home crowd with a 9-7 victory over London Olympic champions the United States in the semifinals, while Russia woke up to amazing form as they outlasted Hungary in the other semis.
The US beat Hungary 10-9 to win the bronze.