Premier annual women’s
tournament ready for take off
Switzerland, June 21, 2005 – Twelve of the best women’s
teams around the globe are ready to do battle when the
13th edition of the World Grand Prix begins on Friday.
Olympic champions and World Cup holders China, Pan
American Cup winners Cuba, world champions Italy and
2004 winners Brazil headline an all star cast where four
teams from Europe, four from Asia, three from Norceca
and one from South America will compete in the premier
women’s annual event.
It is exciting times for women’s Volleyball. This year’s
World Grand Prix is set for a makeover with many sides
boasting new, youthful talent with an eye on giving them
some big time exposure ahead of the 2006 World
Championships just over a year away.
Pic: Brazil beat Italy in last year's final
Nevertheless, the big teams are all expected to
feature in what is going to be another exhilarating
display of women's Volleyball at its best.
China, for one, has a new look lineup which has already
looked ominous claiming pre-season victories. With the
2003 World Cup and Olympic title in their trophy
cabinet, the world number one, who finished fifth last
year, is definitely one of the hot favourites but with
some new blood in the team, they have their goals set on
"This new Chinese side has been renovated this year with
more rookies so the results are not the most important,
it is the understanding and improvement in combinations
which is what we need right now,” Chinese captain Fen
Kuhn, who will be playing in her fifth World Grand Prix,
said. “But once again I’m very excited to be playing in
the World Grand Prix because it is a chance to compete
against the best teams in the world."
Last year’s champions Brazil, have also undertaken some
modifications, but their pre-season form warns they will
not be giving up their title easily. The world number
two has class written all of it despite missing the
likes of Virna Dias, Walewska Oliveira, Xavier Arlene
and Erika Coimbra and having collected bronze at last
year’s Olympics and with the likes of Raquel Peluci
Silva and Marianne Steinbrecher still in their ranks,
they won’t be giving up their title easily.
Last year’s silver medalists and 2002 World Championship
winners Italy are also expected to be there at finals
time. While they’re missing some big guns in captain
Manuela Leggeri, spiking superstar Elisa Togut,
courageous 162cm libero Paola Cardullo, Simona Gioli,
Francesca Piccinini and Simona Ranieri, the likes of
Jenny Barazza, Nadia Centoni, and Eleonora Lo Bianco
remain in the ranks for what looks like a new era for
Italian women's Volleyball and coach Marco Bonitta.
World number three USA collected bronze last year and
have also undergone some major changes including a new
coach “Jenny” Lang Ping, who replaced Toshi Yoshida in
February. Some key players from last season are missing
including veteran outside hitters Tara Cross-Battle and
Keba Phipps, who have retired from the sport, and Logan
Tom, libero Stacy Sykora and Heather Bown.
Cuba, ranked 5th in the world, are the hot property in
women’s Volleyball at the moment. Young, enthusiastic
and exciting to watch, they claimed a shock bronze medal
at last year’s Olympics and after winning the Pan
American Cup in June, they look as though they are
timing their World Championship run superbly.
The first weekend of the Preliminary Round sees Japan,
Brazil, Korea and Poland playing in Tokyo, Japan; Italy,
Cuba, Gemany and Dominican Republic in Reggio Calabria,
Italy and China, Netherlands, USA and Thailand playing
in Ningbo, China. Each team plays each other in a round
robin format before moving on to another venue for week
two of the Preliminary Round. After three weeks of
Preliminary Round action, the top six teams will enter
the Final Round in Japan to play for the honour of 2005
World Grand Prix champion.
Last year’s finishing order was 1) Brazil, 2) Italy, 3)
U.S.A., 4) Cuba, 5) China, 6) Germany, 7) Russia, 8)
Poland, 9) Japan, 10) Thailand, 11) Korea, 12) Dominican