Bangkok, Thailand, February 16, 2004 - The Thailand women's Volleyball team are moving into top gear in preparation for the World Olympic Qualification tournament in Japan, which will be the last chance to vie for four Olympic berths, in two months time.
Head coach Natthapol Srisamutnak has built a team combining some new talent with experienced veterans and the team has already started intensive training.
Young guns Rattana Sanuanram and Wassana Pekpian are two of the exciting additions to the team, while the retired national setter Prim Inthawong has also been training. Inthawong is a skilful setter and was instrumental in helping Thailand win a berth in the 1998 World Championship five years ago in Japan. She still has a slight knee injury problem, but is expected to recover and will be a valuable asset alongside other new recruits as in Patcharee Saengmuang and Pluemjitr Thinkhao, who both play professionally in the Chinese National League Series.
Srisamutnak said his team will train in full in March and April in a number of venues before leaving for the Japan meet. "Training in different venues will help improve my girls' devotion and training atmosphere," he said. "We are moving to several places consisting of Chumphon, Chiang Mai in early March and China on March 28 before returning to Thailand on April 20. Two weeks before the Olympic Qualifying tournament, we will leave for Japan and train there until the start of the competition".
Asked about Thailand's chance of making it to the Olympics, Natthapol said an uphill task awaits. "We have to beat not only Chinese Taipei, but South Korea and Japan. Against Japan before their fans, I think we have only a 40 per cent chance of beating them".
The tournament to determine the last four spots will take place in Tokyo from May 8 to 16. Participating teams include hosts Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Russia, world champions Italy, Argentina and Puerto Rica. The top three teams plus the best Asian team (counting for Asian Continental winner) from the single round-robin tournament will secure berths for the Olympics.
World Cup and World Grand Prix champions China, USA, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Germany, Kenya, Cuba and hosts Greece have already made the cut for the Olympic Games in Athens.
(By Preechachan Wiriyanupappong, AVC South Eastern Zonal Press Officer)