April 22, 2003. The head coach of the Chinese women's team Chen Zhonghe says his team will win the next two Olympic titles, as long as he stays in charge, according to a recent report in the "People's Daily Online".
Zhonghe, who has been with the women's national team for more than two decades but took over as head coach in 2001, believes that despite his side's world ranking of two behind Russia, his inexperienced team has improved significantly and will be peaking in time to claim Olympic glory in 2004 and 2008.
"Currently, our women's team remains as number two in the world, but I am full of confidence to win the Olympic title both in Greece and in Beijing," Zhonghe said in an interview with Morning News, a local newspaper in
Beijing. "While we're aiming to enter the finals at the World Cup grand prix this year, the Olympic Games next year might be the earliest timing for us to be crowned and I am fully confident of winning the title at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, if only I'm still the head coach".
Last year's fourth-place finish at the world championship in Germany was a pleasing omen for Zhonghe. He has injected a youthful look in to the side with an eye on the Olympics and to finish just outside the medals with such an inexperienced lineup illustrates the fact that China isn't far off from being a major threat again.
"We finished twice as runners-up at the World Cup during the last two years, but I don't foresee a long way for us to go to win the world title," Zhonghe said. "However we have to overcome the dilemma of our overall teamwork, requiring our players to be versatile in every position."
Zhonghe has already started some preseason training with the spikers in the team having gathered at Zhangzhou, a training site for Chinese volleyballers in the Fujian province. A second-string "Team of Hope" is also training there to eventually prepare for the Beijing Olympic Games.
"They have a lot of potential as we have five players in the squad at the height of 1.90m, with an average height of 1.87m. Our training site will provide a healthy environment for them as they will be whetted for six months every year at the camp."