|After a series of disappointing
results since the turn of the millennium, the
Cuban women’s Volleyball team looks to be back on
the right path to returning to the
glory days of the 90s,
when they won three Olympic gold medals.
With inspirational skipper
Yumilka Ruiz at
the heart of a youthful side, Cuba is starting to gain
some consistency, which has been lacking in recent
years and there has been no better indication of
their vast improvement than their surprise bronze
medal performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in
Just a couple of months before, Cuba,
one of only four
teams (the others being China, Russia and Japan) to have
participated in every World Grand Prix tournament,
made their best performance in the last three years
at the 2004 Grand Prix by finishing fourth following
some sensational preliminary round form when they
lost only one match.
The likes of Zoila Barros
Fernández, Ana Ibis Fernández Valle and Marta
Sánches Salfran are proof that some of the young
talent in the Cuban side is starting to blossom.
Add into the mix the experienced coach Felipe Calderón
Blet and his valuable assistants Eugenio George Lafita,
who is one of the most experienced World Grand Prix
coaches on the circuit, and Idalberto Valdez Pedro
and Cuba are shaping up as genuine medal contenders
The three time World Champions play a hard,
Russian-style power game and are traditionally
exceptional jumpers and hard hitters. Indeed a
former U.S. coach said of them "They are the best.
You love to watch them, but you don't like to play
Cuba have a distinguished record in
international competition and have been Olympic champions
three times and have taken four World Championship
Their performance in the 2005 World Grand Prix, with
nine members backing up from the 2004 Olympic Games, will
be another litmus test on their progress ahead of
the 2006 World Championships.
Overall Standings for Cuba
Word Grand Prix Played
Total Matches played
Luis Felipe Calderon
Former assistant coach Luis Felipe Calderon made his debut as head coach of the Cuban women’s team at the 2002 World Championship where he took the team to a credible fifth place. But ever since the glory days of the 1990’s, Cuba has struggled to get back on to the podium.
Last year however, was proof that Calderon is starting to make things happen with this young and exciting Cuban side. A bronze medal finish at the 2004 Athens Olympics was a sure sign that Cuba are heading in the right direction.
But it is also in the World Grand Prix where Calderon is producing more favourable results. Having just witnessed (as assistant coach at the time) Cuba finish 11th out of 12 teams at the 2003 World Grand Prix, registering just one win from five matches, Calderon led Cuba to fourth place last year with 10 victories and three defeats.
However, the 1994 and 1998 world champions and three-time Olympic champions are still rebuilding with players like Yanelia Santos and Nancy Carillo de la Paz less than 20-year's-old and it’s up to Calderon, who took Cuba to the silver medal at the 2003 NORCECA Continental Championship and a sixth place finish at the 2003 World Cup, and the renowned Eugenio George Lafita, 70, who is accredited with the status of assistant coach, to keep Cuba growing in the right direction.