Japan, 17 November, 2001 - China finished a dream
run Saturday to claim its first major world volleyball
title in 15 years by defeating Korea in three easy
sets 25:13, 25:15, 25:12.
With still one day of competition left, China, with a
perfect record of four wins and on 8 points, cannot be
caught by the other five teams in the single round robin
Regardless of results on Sunday, they will collect
the winner's cheque of US 300,000 dollars.
Russia, Brazil and Japan are each on 6 points going
into the final day of the Grand Champions Cup in
Fukuoka, Japan. Russia defeated Japan 3-0 and Brazil
just edged-out USA in a five set marathon in earlier
matches. Both USA and Korea are on 5 points.
China has long been one of the best women's
volleyball countries in the world, but not since China,
lead by the great Lang Ping, won two world championship
titles (1982 and 1986), the Olympic gold medal in Los
Angeles 1984, and two World Cup titles (1981 and 1985)
has the Asian champion enjoyed the top position on the
podium at one of volleyball's top tournaments.
They came close at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games,
leading eventual gold medallists Cuba 2-1 and looked
capable of ending the Cuban's run, only to have the
indomitable Mireya Luis spoil the party in the final two
sets. Luis and Regla Torres were again responsible for
making China settle for the second-run at the 1998 world
Sydney 2000 was a major disappointment for the
Chinese. The team had lost many of its stars like the
powerful outside hitter Sun Yue, and finished fifth. But
the finish forced changes back home.
Firstly, Chen Zhonghe was appointed head coach in
And if patience is a quality the Chinese team needs
to learn, they could not find a better example than
Chen, who, before his appointment to the top job, was
trainer and assistant coach for 22 years, joining the team at a
22-year-old in 1979.
But what he has done to this team in just six months
in nothing short of miraculous. He started by cleaning
out the old squad and starting afresh. Comparatively,
the Russian squad at this event features no fewer than
186 world championship and Olympic Games match
appearances under its belt. Chen's young team has zero.
And yet they demolished the Olympic silver medallists
3-1 on Day 1.
At the World Grand Prix in August, fielding a team
which was formed only four months prior, and averaged
only 22-years of age, they convincingly defeated Olympic
champion Cuba twice (3-1 and 3-0), Olympic bronze
medallist Brazil twice (3-1 and 3-2), as well as Olympic
silver medallist Russia, before going down to the USA in
"China is the strongest contender of this
tournament. Their strength is consistent individually as
well as a team," Brazilian coach Marco Motta said
of the young Chinese.
Korean head coach Kim Cheol-young said: "The
Chinese team was excellent in every aspect. They are the
best team at this event"
Coach Chen is singularly focused, as was evidenced by
each of his players: "Our goal is gold in Athens
2004," said captain Feng Kun
"World Championship next year is important, but
it is just a part of the three year plan," said
"We did not come to this event to win, we came
to gain experience. Our goal is 2004," Chen again
reiterated. "This is why our team was able to stay