Yokohama, Japan, July 8, 2008 - The six Head Coaches of the teams set to compete in the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round gathered at the competition venue, Yokohama Arena, for the official press conference on Tuesday evening.
The round-robin finale to FIVB's premier annual Women's competition starts Wednesday and finishes Sunday, July 13, with all matches expected to be close as the teams flex their muscles before the Olympic Games in Beijing next month.
Six-time World Grand Prix champions Brazil led the qualifiers with an 8-1 win-loss record, the same mark as 2003 champions China and Italy, who have never won the World Grand Prix.
The United States, World Grand Prix champions in 1995 and 2001, finished fourth in qualifying at 7-2, followed by Cuba (6-3), who won the tournament in 1993 and 2000.
The final field comprises the world's top four ranked teams in Brazil, Italy, Cuba and USA, plus 2004 Olympic champions China, ranked sixth, and hosts Japan, ranked eighth.
Here are the comments of the six Head Coaches:
Jose Roberto Guimaraes (Brazil): "I am very happy to be here in Yokohama. I think this is a hard competition and difficult for everyone. We have six Olympic teams here. We start against the United States and that is a hard match, but I am very happy to arrive here with my team because we have in one month the Olympic Games. Training against the best teams in the world is very good for us. My team is in good condition now and we will try to do our best."
Chen Zhonghe (China): "After the three stops on the World Grand Prix my team is really tired, but we will try our best in the Final Round because it is the only major tournament before the Olympics. We will try to improve our team play. The first game is against Italy, which is a very strong team and which will put us under great pressure. Zhao Ruirui and Feng Kun had surgery last year and returned to the team in January. In the last few matches they have been in good condition but not at their best, and hopefully they can continue to improve and reach the top level."
Antonio Perdomo (Cuba): "We want to play our best and through this tournament we have to find out what we need to improve. This will help us prepare for the Olympic Games."
Massimo Barbolini (Italy): "We are really happy to be here in Yokohama because for my team to reach the Final is very important; first because of the importance of the competition, the World Grand Prix, but moreover because it is one month before the Olympic Games. It will be very important to see and play against five of the strongest teams in the world and see our condition in respect of these very, very strong teams."
Shoichi Yanagimoto (Japan): "The Final Round of the World Grand Prix is a pre-Olympic tournament. It is a hard schedule, but we want to identify our weaknesses and work on them before the Olympics. The team condition is good and we want to show our best performance to get into the tournament round in the Olympics."
"Jenny" Lang Ping (USA): "We have been working very hard for the last three weeks so we are very happy to make the Finals. We would like to use this great opportunity before the Olympic Games to play and to continue to improve our team work. I hope we can play well for all five matches."
The match schedule for the Final Round, played at Yokohama Arena, is as follows:
*All times are local
Wednesday, July 9
Thursday, July 10
Friday, July 11
Saturday, July 12
Sunday, July 13