Tokyo, Japan, May 25, 2008 – The Women’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament concluded in Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium here on Sunday after Kazakhstan clinched the last of the four tickets available at the tournament, with all 12 teams to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games now finally determined.
The 12 teams, who booked their Olympic berths either through the 2007 World Cup or the Continental Qualification Tournaments except host China, are China (host country), Italy (first place World Cup), Brazil (second place World Cup), USA (third place World Cup), Algeria (Africa), Kazakhstan (Asia), Russia (Europe), Cuba (NORCECA), Venezuela (South America), Poland (first place WOQT), Serbia (second place WOQT) and Japan (third place WOQT). They are going to compete from August 9 to 23, 2008, in Beijing.
Serbia, Poland and Japan earned their tickets earlier in the tournament by finishing in the top three. The ticket for Asia was finally settled after the second match of the day.
Korea, Thailand and Kazakhstan all had chances to book the last ticket to the Olympics before entering today’s match. The world No. 11 Koreans had the most edge with two wins and four defeats compared with 1-5 records for both Thailand and Kazakhstan. Due to the loss of Korea at the hands of Dominican Republic and the win by Kazakhstan over Thailand, the central Asians overtook the Thais and shared the same 2-5 record, the same as Korea. Kazakhstan finally grabbed the ticket assigned to Asia for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with a better points ratio.
The round-robin tournament through May 17-25 doubles up as the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament and so the best three teams plus the best Asian team (even if any of the best three teams are Asian) book their tickets to Beijing.
In the first match, the Dominican Republic stormed back to beat Korea 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-15) and picked their fourth win at the tournament against three defeats, but it was not enough for them to enter the top three. Korea, who was beaten by another Asian rival Kazakhstan in straight sets, finished their tourney with only two wins against five defeats.
“The main reason for our defeat was the absence of four starting players because of injuries," said Korean head coach. Lee Jung-Chul. “Our level was inferior overall. We must practise more so as to raise the level of Korean Volleyball.”
Kazakhstan, ranked No. 14 in the world, recovered from the first-set deficit to beat world no. 18 Thailand 3-1 in the second match. After losing the first set, the central Asians stormed back to take the next, beating Thailand 13-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-21.
Kazakhstan, who lost the first five matches earlier at the tournament, rallied back to take two consecutive important matches, improving their win-loss record to 2-5, the same as Korea’s, which made their hopes of qualifying for the Olympic come true. Thailand dropped their record to 1-6, dropping out of the contest for the Olympic ticket.
“This is the happiest press conference as I learned that we can go to the Olympic Games, “ said Kazakhstan head coach Vikto Zhuravlev.
Poland ended their campaign in Tokyo on a high note. The Poles, who cruised back to win six consecutive matches after losing to Japan on the first day, again took it easy in face of the strong firepower from NORCECA team Puerto Rico. From the first set on, Poland never gave any chance to their rivals, on the way to a 25-22, 25-22, 25-22 victory, improving their record to 6-1 and sending Puerto Rico to last place with a 1-6 record.
“Our level is not high enough, but we achieved our goal to go to Beijing. Polish people expect we win an Olympic medal. It is not easy to say we can win a medal in the Olympics, but we will try our best,” said Polish highest scorer Katarzyna Skowronska.
Serbia, 2006 World Championship bronze medallist, overcame a slow start to show off their awesome power in the last match of the day but had to push themselves before edging host Japan in a five-set thriller that delighted a full house. Japan played very impressive from the start, getting points with a combination of fast attack and tight defence to take the first two sets 25-19, 25-21. But Serbia had too much height and power for the Asian country, winning the next three sets with effective blocks 25-19, 25-19, 19-17. Serbia blocked a total 18 points and were back on the job in the tiebreak.
Serbia ended the tournament with a 6-1 win-loss record while Japan lost their unbeaten record to finish 6-1.
Serbia’s head coach Zoran Terzic said he liked to play against Japan, “because of the extra, extra atmosphere from the great fans. Japan make really spectacular Volleyball.”
Day seven results:
Dominican Republic vs. Korea 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-15)
Kazakhstan vs. Thailand 3-1 (13-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-21)
Poland vs. Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-22)
Japan vs. Serbia 2-3 (25-19, 25-21, 19-25, 19-25, 17-19)
Final standings: (two points for victory, one for loss)
1. Poland 13 points, 2. Serbia 13, 3. Japan 13, 4. Dominican Republic 11, 5. Kazakhstan 9, 6. Korea 9, 7. Thailand 8, 8. Puerto Rico 8