BAKU, Azerbaijan, January 10, 2004 - European Championship bronze medalists Germany surprised all by convincingly beating Turkey, the European Championship silver medalists, in straight sets (25-22, 25-16, 25-7) in Saturday's final of the Women's European Olympic Qualification tournament here in Baku, Azerbaijan, to qualify for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
The win capped a magical week for Germany who only lost one match all tournament - to Poland 3-2 - beating the likes of World Champion Italy (3-2) and favorites Russia (3-2) on their way to claim the only Olympic ticket available at this tournament.
After battling through most of the tournament Germany hit their straps in the final with Turkey having the same problems with its nerves as during the final of the 2003 European Championships, when Turkey lost to Poland in straight sets. Here in Baku, Germany only needed 58 minutes to clinch the victory and the worthy Olympic ticket finishing with Atika Bouagaa spiking home on the first match point.
"This is incredible," German setter Tanja Hart said. "After the match we were singing and drunk champagne in the locker room. We can't appreciate what we have done now. We even don't know how to celebrate, because nobody expected that we would win, even the players didn't believe it themselves.
"We served extremely well. That's why the Turkish team couldn't compete at its normal level. We thought it would be a long match, but fortunately it was over soon but even with this 3-0 victory I am totally exhausted."
"This is a real surprise, also for me," German coach Hee Wan Lee said. "We played such a hard semifinal that I was worried if my players were capable to play at such a high level in the final. When we traveled to Baku, I never thought we would return to Germany as the champion."
It is the third time that Germany has won the Women's European Olympic Qualification tournament. In 1996 and 2000, Germany won the event at home in Bremen. Now the German team proved that it could also win these events away from home.
Russia and Italy, the two best non qualified European teams according to the FIVB World Rankings, will get another chance in May 2004 to qualify for Athens at the World Qualification tournament in Japan.