March 10, 2004 - Women's Volleyball World Cup champions China are setting their sights on further success at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Athens this summer. The athletes arrived in Zhangzhou, in Southeastern China on Monday for an intensive month-long training regime which has been taking place behind closed doors.
Asked if the World Cup winners would settle for a place among the top three in Athens, team manager Li Quangiang responded, "That's the priority, but at the same time, we will make every effort for the gold medal."
"The players have been steadily improving since this team was established in 2001, and the World Cup victory last year boosted our confidence," Li Quangiang continued. "We are also very aware of the capabilities of our rivals. All of the players and coaches here have set a goal which is to win in Athens."
China, who dominated the sport between 1981 and 1986, are under immense pressure to deliver in the Olympics due to their tremendous victory at the World Cup which took place in Japan last November and their title winning performance in last year's World Grand Prix. The team have become heroines in their native land and along with the knowledge of the strength of their opponents, this will add to the pressure within the team according to Li Quaniang. "China is on a par with the United States, Russia, Italy and Brazil," he said. "No team can be certain of victory. The competition in Athens will be very tough and hard."
Although confident in their ability, head coach Chen Zhonghe told reporters he was slightly worried his players weren't yet displaying their full capabilities. "We will have a tough year in 2004 because our players have not yet reached their peak despite all of the team training we have done over the past three years."
Yet despite Chen Zhonghe's slight reservations, China will enter the Olympic Games this summer as many people's favourites. Indeed, according to Li Quangiang, the current intensive training schedule China is undergoing will only help to enhance the team's chances. "The training is very important for the Olympic Games. I think they (the players) will be in their best shape in one month's time."