China to fight for pride in Olympic men’s volleyball

July 16th, 2008 - 2:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 16 (Xinhua) Back to the Olympic Games after a 24-year absence, the Chinese men’s volleyball team is determined to prove that it is not a humble host. The team, ranked 21st in the world, the lowest among the 12 competitors, has set its goal in Beijing to enter the final eight.

Long overshadowed by their supremely successful female compatriots, the men spikers are eager to save some pride on their home court.

Their last Olympic appearance was in 1984, when the team headed for the Los Angeles in haste as a substitution for defaulter Soviet Union and finished a dismal eighth.

It’s not going to get any easier this time for China, which is grouped with the Athens Olympic runners-up Italy, World Cup bronze medallist Bulgaria, the third-ranked United States, Japan and Venezuela.

But coach Zhou Jian’an and his team are not giving up.

“We have been prepared for the Beijing Games for years. Tough as our opponents are, we will go all out and make sure the Chinese fans will be satisfied with our performance,” said Zhou.

However, the coach is also worried the “home advantage” may weigh too much on the shoulders of the inexperienced squad.

“I have told them many times to fight for every point, not to worry about the result,” he said.

The matches against Japan and Venezuela, who are regarded at par with China, are the must-win steps for the team to realise its goal.

“We are no stranger to Japan and we have kept a 50-50 win-loss record against the team, but we have never played with Venezuela and that will be a real challenge,” said Zhou.

The Chinese team has honed its fast-attacking style of play since Zhou took over in 2005.

Despite the retirement of key player Tang Miao, who had his cervical vertebrae severely damaged during a training session in Russia last year, the young players, led by captain Shen Qiong, have built confidence after a series of international competitions.

The comeback of veterans Sui Shengsheng and Shi Hairong is set to help the team handle the big moment.

Zhou sees the Olympics as a better chance for his younger players to gain experience against the very best, and seeks improvement from them game-to-game.

While China is seeking a quarter-final berth in Beijing, defending Olympic champion Brazil will not accept anything other than the gold medal.

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