Even the eventual finalists Brazil and China had their moments. The
South Americans lost to Bulgaria in the preliminary round, while Chi-
na were on a run of 13 straight wins before meeting the Olympic
champions in the gold medal match.
Tournament debutants Bulgaria were the surprise package of the
World Grand Prix, beating Japan 3-0. Bulgaria only just missed out
on a place in the Finals when they lost 3-2 to USA, a performance
that drew praise from US coach Kiraly. “They played a tremendous
Grand Prix,” he said. “They have an exciting future with many young
Bulgaria’s exciting form was largely down to coach Marcello Abbon-
danza, who is beginning to put together a new volleyball power.
“I have been very proud of my team throughout this entire World
Grand Prix,” he said. “It’s our first time in the Grand Prix and first
time at the international level. We showed the power of our team in
this Grand Prix.”
Although Italy finished fifth in the Finals they at least had the con-
solation of having a new star, Valentina Diouf, named the leading
scorer after she racked up 110 points for her side. There was no such
consolation for Finals’ hosts Japan, whose wait for a World Grand
Prix podium finish continues after they lost to Serbia in the bronze
“The team made mistakes at important points and it’s natural that
if they blow chances then they don’t win. But this tournament, with
these young members playing against the top teams in the world,
will be valuable for the team,” said Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe.
“However, I’m not satisfied because we only won one match. In
matches that go to five sets it seems that this team can’t win, so we
have to address that.”
The standard of this World Grand
Prix was incredibly high.
Italy’s Valentina Diouf was the Finals leading scorer with 110 points
USA coach Kirch Kiraly can look forward to helping his young team