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Heidger-Wong Lucky in Loss

September 20, 2000|From Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — They call Americans Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong the "lucky losers" of the Olympic men's beach volleyball competition, and in this case, the label has real resonance.

Despite splitting their two consolation matches Tuesday, Heidger and Wong still advanced to the final 16 because they had a better point differential than the other two teams that also won one and lost one of their consolation games.

Not only that, the "lucky losers" ended up with the best draw of the four teams emerging from consolation play, taking on the 24th-seeded Mexican pair of Juan Ibarra and Joel Sotelo when men's competition resumes Friday. The other three to survive consolation play face either the second- and third-seeded Brazilian teams or the Laciga brothers from Switzerland, seeded fourth.

Heidger and Wong denied knowing they needed to score nine points or more in their final match against Australia's Julien Prosser and Lee Zahner to guarantee they advanced, win or lose.

The Americans went up 9-4, then lost momentum as Prosser and Zahner raced back to tie the match and then forge ahead to a 15-11 victory.

"I knew we were leading the point differential," Heidger said, but he insisted he was unaware of the exact figure required to go through. "The last thing I wanted to do was just sit around and do a bunch of math problems."

Their coach, Dane Selznick, said he told the players before the match they needed to score at least eight points. Heidger said he and Wong heard so many figures about "lucky loser" point differentials that they tuned them all out, including Selznick's.

Other players were aware, and complained about a system that awarded a loss with an easier route to a possible quarterfinal berth.

"It's not 'faster, higher, stronger.' It's lose," said Fabio Diez, a member of the Spanish team that also survived consolation by defeating a Czech Republic team.

The other American men's team--Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana--won their opening Olympic match Sunday to qualify for the final 16. They face the Norwegian team of Jorre Kjemperud and Vegard Hoidalen on Friday.

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