January 13, 2004 - Asian teams achieved remarkable success in the year of 2003, much better than expected, which has won high praise from the international Volleyball family and the improvement of Asian Volleyball has been best illustrated by the reduction in the gap between the three Asian giants (Korea, China and Japan) and the other powers of world Volleyball.
China, who won the 2003 Grand Prix for the first time, left the Women's World Cup in November in Japan with a perfect record to win the title and qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games, with Japan finishing fifth and Korea ninth. In the Men's World Cup the performances of the Asian teams didn't quite match those of their women counterparts but Korea still placed sixth, and Japan and China ninth and 10th respectively.
In the FIVB-organized underage group competitions, the performances by Asian junior teams were much better. In the Under-19 Boys World Championship, four countries from the Asian Confederation finished in the top eight, with India placing second, Iran third, Thailand sixth and Australia eighth. This fact is an obvious sign that Volleyball in this part of the world is on a high.
In the Girls Under-18 World Championship, China retained their title and finished runner's-up in the Under-20 Women's World Championship. On top of that Korea and Iran finished fourth and sixth in the Men's Under-21 World Championship. The FIVB noted that the successful campaigns of many of the Asian nations on the court was the perfect example of how popular and serious Volleyball is becoming in the Asian continent.
In the past only China, Japan and Korea were regular semifinalists at the Continental Championships but 2003 saw many other Asian teams become more competitive and achieve success both at the junior and senior level including the likes of Iran, Australia, India, Pakistan and Chinese Taipei for men and Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Vietnam for women.
Commenting on the progress Asian made in the past year, AVC President Wei Jizhong noted that the Asian Volleyball felt very glad to achieve the impressive progress but could not rest on their laurels. On the whole, there is still a big gap between Asian Volleyball and the world (especially Europe and the Americas). Even the Asian women's senior teams, on the whole, is not on the same level with the world, despite the Chinese women's team winning the World Cup and World Grand Prix. As for the men's senior teams, Asia is lagging behind quite far. Therefore, Asian must double their efforts to catch up quick.