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World Grand Prix squads announced

 
Karch Kiraly, who won Olympic gold in the hall in 1988 and 1992, has taken over from former coach Hugh McCutcheon in the US team.

Lausanne, Switzerland, June 25, 2013 – One year after the Olympic Games, the talk of the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix  is all about a changing of the guard.

A number of stars who have dominated the international scene in recent years, such as Russia’s Ekaterina Gamova and USA's Logan Tom are missing from the squads named for the 21st edition of international volleyball’s premium annual event, which begins on August 2.

As well as a plethora of talented young players, the record 20-strong field also sees the return of some prominent names – the coach’s bench will be graced by two true legends, in the form of Lang Ping (China) and Karch Kiraly (USA).

Kiraly, who won Olympic gold in the hall in 1984 and 1988, and added a third gold medal in the beach volleyball competition in 1996, has taken over from former coach Hugh McCutcheon in the US team. “King Karch” has big shoes to fill, as USA has won the last three World Grand Prix in a row. The number one team in the world’s 22-strong squad, which recently won the Pan American Cup, is missing many of its top performers, including Destinee Hooker (pregnant), Logan Tom and Tayyiba Haneef-Park.

Last year’s World Grand Prix finalists and Olympic champions Brazil still have the majority of their big names on board as they begin preparations for Rio 2016. Of the best-known Brazilians, only the powerful pin-up Jaqueline and Paula Pequeno are missing from the team that, with eight victories to its name, has won the Grand Prix more times than anyone else. The top favourites to win this year’s competition will again be coached by the successful Ze Roberto.

In contrast, last year’s surprise package Turkey, who finished third in 2012, have a new face on the coach’s bench: Massimo Barbolini has taken the reins. The former coach of the Italian national team tops a whole list of Italian coaches among the 20 teams in this year’s World Grand Prix.

Other top teams also have new faces in managerial positions. Lang Ping, who won Olympic gold with China in 1984 and silver as the coach of the US team in 2008 in her home city of Beijing, has returned home. The four old hands Wei Qiuyue, Ma Yunwen, Chu Jinling and Mi Yang will not be in action in the 2013 World Grand Prix.

There is also a changing of the guard for three-time World Grand Prix winners Russia: Yuri Marichev has been appointed as the new coach of the Russian women’s team. The Dynamo Krasnador coach takes over from Sergei Ovchinnikov, who passed away three weeks after Russia lost to Brazil in the quarterfinals of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Russia women's team will be defending their World Championship title next year, which they won in 2010 on top of their 2006 triumph while also participating in this year's World Grand Prix after missing last year's edition.
Former team leaders Ekaterina Gamova and Lioubov Sokolova are no longer in the team.

Key players are also missing from the Italian (Eleonora Lo Bianco, Francesca Piccinini and Simona Gioli) and German (Angelina Hübner) teams.

In Japan, ace spiker Saori Kimura was named new captain of the team, replacing Erika Araki. While the team will have plenty of new faces this season, setter Hitomi Nakamichi has the big task of filling the shoes left by chief playmaker Yoshie Takeshita due to retirement.

Seasoned spectators can expect some stiff competition at the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix. Following a decision by the World Grand Prix Council in December 2012, the premier annual FIVB women’s volleyball event will expand to 20 teams, four more than in last year’s competition.

The teams competing are USA, Brazil, Turkey, China and Cuba, who qualified for last year’s finals, as well as Algeria, Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia and Serbia. The Preliminary Round takes place in 15 different countries.

The World Grand Prix Finals will return to Japan for the first time since 2009 and take place in Sapporo from August 28 to September 1. Japan has hosted the World Grand Prix Finals four times in the past, with Sapporo being a fifth host city after Tokyo in 2009, Yokohama in 2008, Sendai in 2005 and Kobe in 1997. Following the Preliminary Round, the organisers and the next best five teams will qualify for the Finals.

The World Grand Prix featured eight teams in its debut season of 1993 and from 1995 to 2002, while 12 teams were in action in 1994 and from 2003 to 2010. Sixteen teams have been involved in the 2011 and 2012 competitions.

View the FIVB World Grand Prix tournament page for more information, here: http://www.fivb.org/EN/volleyball/competitions/WorldGrandPrix/2013/index.asp

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