China determined to defend women’s volleyball title

July 17th, 2008 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 17 (Xinhua) Despite a disappointing fifth finish in the just concluded 2008 World Grand Prix, the Chinese women’s volleyball team is determined to defend its title at the Beijing Olympics. “I am not satisfied with our overall performance at this tournament, but I am still confident of our chance at the Olympic Games,” said China head coach Chen Zhonghe.

“We will not change our goal, that is to try to win the gold medal,” Chen added. “We still have enough time to make some adjustments and I am sure our team will be in better shape at the Games.”

After the Athens Games, where the Chinese women rallied past Russia in a five-set thriller for their first Olympic gold in 20 years, the women’s volleyball competition in Beijing will become more fierce with seven teams emerging as gold medal contenders.

“To win the gold medal is the dream for every team, but it will be really difficult in Beijing because there are so many strong teams,” said Chen, who took charge in 2001 and led to consecutive first place finishes at the 2003 World Cup in Japan and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Brazil, who showed great form by claiming their seventh World Grand Prix title last week in Japan, seemed to be a title favourites, but their coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes refused to be over optimistic.

“Of course I am very happy about the result, but although we won this tournament I do not have any illusions about the Olympics,” said Guimaraes.

Following successive runner-up finishes at the 2006 World Championship and 2007 World Cup, World No. 1 Brazil is more than eager to win their first gold at three major competitions (Olympics, World Championship, World Cup) in many years.

Italy, the World No. 2 and 2007 World Cup winners, will also join China and Brazil in the contention for the gold medal.

“I believe the competition will be very close and there are five to six teams that are hopeful for a medal,” said Italy head coach Massimo Barbolini following a third finish of his team at the Grand Prix final round.

One also cannot forget Russia, who missed the 2008 World Grand Prix, the most important competition before the Olympic Games.

The Russian women kept a low profile at international stage following their triumph at the 2006 World Championship. However, with the trio of Ekaterina Gamova, Liubov Sokolova and Elena Godina on their side and the comeback of Eugenia Atamonova, the Athens Olympics silver medallists could never be underestimated.

With so many strong teams ambitious for the glory, and Serbia, Poland and Japan trying to play the role of dark horses, the Beijing Olympics women’s volleyball tournament will be great to watch.

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