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Zhang Xi is a beach volleyball player competing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for China.

Zhang Xi makes her second Olympic appearance in London after she and partner Xue Chen won bronze at the Beijing Games. Despite being the youngest team in the tournament — Zhang was 23, Xue was 19 — the fourth-seeded pair lost only one match, in the semifinals to top-seeded compatriots Tian Jia and Wang Jie in three sets. And the youngsters came extremely close to reaching the final, as Zhang and Xue took the first set from their favored compatriots, 24-22, then had three match points before losing the second game, 27-29. Tian and Wang closed out the third game 15-8. Two days later, Zhang and Xue defeated Brazil's Talita Antunes and Renata Ribeiro for bronze (21-19, 21-17).

Zhang, a lefty, paired up with Xue in 2006, and they won their first title in just their second FIVB World Tour event, the Shanghai Open. Zhang was 21 years, 39 days old at the time, and Xue was 17 years, 99 days old, making them the youngest team to ever win a World Tour event. Zhang made her World Tour debut as an 18-year-old in 2003, and began making more regular appearances on tour the next season. She has played with Xue ever since 2006, except for 2009, when each woman was paired with a partner from her home province in preparation for the 2009 Chinese National Games, one of the most important sporting events in China.

Zhang and Xue picked up another bronze at the 2011 World Championships, where they lost to Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the semifinals (17-21, 21-15, 10-15) before easily defeating Lenka Hajeckova and Hana Klapalova of the Czech Republic for bronze (21-14, 21-12). It was the Chinese pair's second world championship appearance together; they placed fourth at the 2007 Worlds. In 2005, Zhang placed 33rd at Worlds with Hu Xiaoyan, and ninth with Huang Ying in 2009.

Zhang and Xue won two World Tour events their first season, but none the next year despite appearing in three gold-medal matches. The duo won its only two finals appearances in 2008, then had a breakthrough season in 2010, as it won three titles and three silver medals. Zhang and Xue appeared in five finals in 2011, winning twice. In nine tournaments this summer leading up to the Olympics, they advanced to four finals and won three gold medals.

While Xue is younger than Zhang, the elder player appreciates what she brings to their team. "I am impressed with her performance," Zhang says. "Her comprehension abilities seem special to me. Speaking of personalities, she has a more buoyant disposition, always inclined to talk more and joke around." About why they play so well together, Zhang says, "Sometime we like one person. I know her, (she) know me. Sometime we think about one point, so maybe it's God plan." She also says they fight like sisters, but it's a good thing. "Sometimes it about training. In the home also, fight more than peace," she says.

During the winter, the Chinese beach volleyball players reside at the national team training center in Sanya, which is located on of Hainan Island. Once a place of exile, Hainan is now a major resort destination. It is on China's southernmost point and was often referred to as "the end of the Earth" by the Chinese. In Sanya, the players live in an apartment complex adjacent to a hotel, where they eat and have access to their own poolside, open-air weight room. Three practice courts are located across the street from their residence. Once the World Tour season ends, the players take a couple weeks off, then typically spend December to February in Sanya.

Since 2005, Zhang, Xue and other Chinese players have spent several weeks each spring training near Los Angeles with Dane Selznick, the former coach of May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings. While in the U.S., the Chinese pair also gets a chance to train against top American and international teams. Prior to the 2012 season, they spent time scrimmaging against May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings and Germany's Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig. In previous years, they have trained against Jen Kessy and April Ross too.

Zhang, who started playing volleyball when she was 11 years old, also enjoys playing tennis, although she says she isn't very good. In her spare time, she studies law at Nanjing University in Jiangsu, but because of her hectic travel and training schedule, she only has about one month for school after the season ends. When she's done with her volleyball career, Zhang would like to be a teacher or a coach, but regardless would still like to travel. "I don't think I stay in one place all the time," she says. She also likes to read and play video games, especially skiing on the Wii.


How tall is Zhang Xi? How old is Zhang Xi? Where does Zhang Xi live? Find out here.

Age: 31 years old
Birthday: April 19, 1985
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 141 lbs.
Birthplace: Jiangsu, China
Hometown: Nantong, China
Current Residence: Sanya, China

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