2003 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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Russia

Since the inception of Russian women's Volleyball in 1949 (at the time called USSR) there has been no other country, which has matched them for results.

Tall, lean and formidable have been the characteristics which has dominated this country over the years and brought with them four Olympic titles, five World Championships, the World Grand Prix three times, a World Cup and a World Grand Champion Cup and the European Championship title 17 times.

An astonishing tradition and one that is still firing in 2003. The number one ranked side in the world are defending their 2002 World Grand Prix title this year and with such attacking stars as Evgenia Artamonova, Elizaveta Tichtchenko, Anastasia Belikova, Ekaterina Gamova and setter Olga Choukanova in their ranks they will again be tough to topple.

Twenty-two-year-old Gamova and Potachova, 26, both standing at an incredible 204cm, are the best illustrations of Russia's "lethal weapons" and demonstrates the hurdle, both physical and psychological, that other teams must overcome when opposite this champion Russian team.

Their third-place finish at last year's World Championship was a surprise for not only Russia but the rest of the Volleyball community after heading into the tournament as favourites on the back of last year's World Grand Prix success. But there is no doubting that with such a powerful lineup and rich history in the sport it won't be too long before this Russian side will occupy the top spot on the podium again.