2003 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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China

Gone is the time of the forever powerful Chinese women's side of the 80s and 90s but this year's Grand Prix could signal a return to the glory days.

Last year's fourth place finish at the World Championship in Germany is a perfect stage for this young Chinese women's volleyball team to continue its impressive development during the 2003 season.

Laden with unbridled talent and youthful enthusiasm this current crop of Chinese women have kept legendary coach Chen Zhonghe well occupied as he tries to mould his team into above all else, Olympic Gold medal contenders.

Since the disappointing 2000 Olympics result, where China finished fifth, the current No 2 team in the world behind Russia has focused on regenerating a core of players who will take them back into medal contention at Athens 2004.

This decision is starting to bear fruit and after last year's finish at the Worlds don't be surprised to see China amongst calculations for the World Grand Prix. The likes of captain Feng Kun, Chen Jin and Zhao Ruirui are really starting to show their potential and the typical characteristics of the Olympic and World Championship winning Chinese teams of last century are returning with a win-at-all-costs attitude starting to resurface.

Coach Zhonghe has a lot of talent in front of him but the manner in the way he steers this side through the World Grand Prix, where Japan, Korea and Thailand await first up in pool play, will be riveting.