The defending Olympic Champions China suffered a slump in form after their stunning five-set defeat of Russia in the Athens final in 2004.
After winning their second Olympic title 20 years after their first in Los Angeles, the Chinese were hampered by injuries to key players.
The team lost a string of matches to lowly ranked teams and finished a remote fifth at the 2006 FIVB World Championships before losing the Asian Championship trophy the following year.
It was far from the heady days in Athens in 2004 and the year before that when they couldn’t lose. In 2003, China won the FIVB World Grand Prix for the first time, FIVB World Cup (for the third time) and Asian Continental Championship.
The dark clouds have lifted somewhat recently.
The 2007 FIVB World Grand Prix saw China finish in second position on home soil in Ningbo on the back of some brilliant play from Zhang Xian, named Best Digger, Best Receiver and Best Libero, Wei Quiyue, named Best Setter, and Hao Yang, named Best Server. (China as Olympic host country had no need to take part in the 2007 World Cup, which qualified the top three for the Games.)
The skilful middle blocker Zhao Ruirui, once a crucial part of the side but who was out of action for almost four years with knee injuries, has returned.
The baby faced Zhao was injured in a match prior to the 2004 Olympics. Her injury became even worse in her first Olympic match against the United States, and she was then sidelined for the rest of the tournament in Athens.
On the comeback trail alongside Zhao is captain and setter Feng Kun, also battling back from a knee injury after a year on the sidelines following surgery in 2007.
The duo, together with Yang Hao, Zhou Suhong, Liu Ya'nan and Zhang Na, are the players with Olympic experience, with a number of young players giving the overall squad a nice balance.
Chinese Head Coach Chen Zhonghe is feeling positive about China’s chances after the return of some of his more experienced players and has said that the Chinese team should finish in the top three in Beijing.
Home advantage may well count for a lot.
Chen Zhonghe started his Volleyball career in 1976 as a player of the provincial team. Three years' later, Chen was selected as a trainer of the Chinese Women's National Team from 1979 to 1985 before he assumed the position of the team's assistant coach from 1989 to 1992.
Chen joined the Chinese team again in 1995 to help "Jenny" Lang Ping (now Head Coach of USA Women). He was selected Head Coach in 2001 when he led the Chinese team to FIVB World Grand Champions Cup glory. Since then he has led the Chinese team to a series of major victories: fourth in the 2002 FIVB World Championship, 2003 World Grand Prix winners, 2004 FIVB World Cup winners and 2004 Athens Games' gold medallists.
As a coach with strong principles and high values, Chen Zhonghe, whose hobby is drinking Chinese tea -- he even drinks it during matches -- is never content with his achievements. "It's easy to climb to the top, but not easy to stay there," Chen has said in the past.
More recently he said: "We know the Chinese people have high hopes of our team. In the past three years, more and more teams are becoming stronger and seven or eight teams in the world all have chances to win the Olympic gold medal. As for the Chinese team, we have chances as well as difficulties. What our team is doing these days is to train hard and try our utmost to get as good a result as possible."
Chen was born in the Fujian Province of Southern China in October 2, 1957, and has a daughter and son.