TIANJIN, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- World champion Xue Chen and her new partner Ma Yuanyuan marched into the top 16 of the women's beach volleyball tournament after taking their third consecutive win at the 13th Chinese National Games Thursday afternoon.
Being considered the hot favorites to win the gold medal here in Tianjin, the pair from Fujian and Shandong beat Lin Meitong/Liu Jing of Liaoning 21-18, 21-11 to finish atop of preliminary pool C with a 3-0 win-loss record.
"A lot of people take us as the title favorites at the Games, while we just want to play our best and improve our combination game by game," said Xue, who had paired with Zhang Xi to win the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the gold medal at the World Championships in 2013.
"We call ourselves 'honeymoon combination', since we have just played together for two weeks," Xue added. "Hopefully we can play well together and play like a team."
The National Games allow spikers from different provinces and cities to take part in beach volleyball tournaments as a team, and Xue/Ma are benefiting from the new rules.
"It's great to have the opportunity to play shoulder to shoulder with Xue at the National Games," said Ma, who was also a Chinese international. "We will try to make good use of our advantage and play as well as we can."
Rio Olympians Wang Fan/Yue Yuan also qualified for the knock out stage after winning preliminary pool A with three wins in a row.
Twenty-four teams are playing in six round robin groups in the preliminaries with 16 teams to qualify for the knock out stage.