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Olympic champions gear up for World Grand Prix

Beijing, China, June 16, 2005 – Following their outstanding gold medal performance in Athens, China, the number one women’s team in the world, are ominously talking up improving their performance for the 2005 World Grand Prix.

With the tag “favourites” normally attached everywhere they go, the title may be a little frayed for the 2005 World Grand Prix as the World Cup holders are boasting are new and rejuvenated lineup.

This new squad still managed to win a pre-season tournament in China earlier this month and now they’re thick in the middle of training with an eye to their opening World Grand Prix match on June 24 against Thailand in Ningbo.

But as captain Feng Kun, who is preparing for her fifth World Grand Prix, knows too well, with a young side one must start at the basics and slowly build on working combinations and coordination.
Photo: Feng Kun (right) and Ma Yunwen

"I remember my first match in the World Grand Prix,” Kun, 27, said. “Everybody was younger at the time so it wasn’t a happy occasion be we grew up slowly through the competition since then,” she said.

"This new Chinese side has been renovated this year with more rookies included so the results are not the most important, it is the understanding and improvement in combinations which is what we need right now.

"But once again I’m very excited to be playing again in the World Grand Prix because it is a chance to compete against the best teams in the world."

Arguably one of the best setter’s in the world, Kun knows all about the trials and tribulations of pre-tournament anxiety but as usual she’ll only let her actions on court do the talking in an effort to lead her young side into battle.

Meanwhile, Ma Yunwen from Shanghai, who is only 19-years-old this year, will be one of those looking to Kun for leadership as she will be making her debut in the World Grand Prix.

"I only watched the competition on TV last year,” the 1.89m second spiker said. “I had not expected at that time that I would be participating in this year’s contest one year later.

"Yes, I am still very young but I hope to study my older team members and the other world class athletes through the competition in order to progress.”

China has never finished worse than fifth place having participated in all 12 editions of the World Grand Prix but in the two times that they have finished two places outside of the medals last year’s was one of the most unusual where they finished third in the Preliminary Round with only two defeats before missing out on the medals only on set ratio.