China Volleyball Association has gone with a core group of 10 players who took part in the 2002 World Championship, but have propped up the young side by adding two very experienced veterans for the 2003 World League. The squad are also being groomed for the other two majors this season, the World Cup (November, Japan) and the Asian Men's Senior Championship.
Head Coach Di Anhe has stuck to his policy of grooming young players. The 18-man squad includes core players wing spiker Shen Qiong and opposite Tang Miao. Eleven of his players are under 23 with wing spikers Hu Song, Wang Zhiteng and Fang Yingchao being just 20. But it is expected that Di will largely stick to his regulars in the World League, combining experience with youth to try to find the magic mix.
Di Anhe has modest aims for this year's World League, saying his side is not yet strong and mature enough to achieve excellent results. Instead he will concentrate on the team's main goal for 2002m to win the Asian Championship. The head coach has also called veteran Wang Hebing back into the team to try to improve the team's setting. The 33-year-old Wang is one of the oldest players and the most outstanding new addition to the squad. He did not go to the 2002 World League and the World Championship but he is still considered the best and the most experienced setter in China. Another notable selection is the 2.01 meters Zheng Liang, also 33. As a veteran of some 560 national and international appearances and a long-time member of the national team, Zheng will certainly help to add stability to the lineup.
Coach Di acknowledges that his young players are very promising, talented and have a strong will to win, but in pinpointing their weaknesses he says they still lack experience in international competitions and tend to be nervous and unsteady at critical times. Participation in the 2003 World League will thus be valuable experience for the young side, boosted and stabilized by the addition of the two veterans.
China returned to the World league last year after a long break away from this elite competition and they attracted attention in Intercontinental Round Pool matches against Italy, Spain and Venezuela as an almost complete young squad. The Chinese team won four matches and lost eight, finishing third in the Pool and therefore failing to advance to the final round.
This year they face a strong test in Group C meeting Yugoslavia, the bronze medallist from 2002, Netherlands and Cuba, who are also grooming a new generation of players.
The Chinese Squad: Zhang Xiaodong and Shi Hairong (Jiangsu Yipinmei Club), Hu Song (Beijing), Wang Heping, Zheng Liang and Li Hang (Zhejiang Liqun Club), Tang Miao, Shen Qiong, Wang Zhiteng, He Jiong, Fang Yingchao and Cui Xiaodong (Shanghai TV Cable Club), Li Chun and Wu Xiaojiang (Army Club), Chu Hui, Wang Haichuan and Yuan Zhi (Liangning Club), Li Siliang (Shandong Jigang Club).