|Last year's appearance in the
World Grand Prix final round was just reward for a
team, which is shaping up as one of the new forces
on the block.
Moving from 11th to ninth position on the
FIVB official world rankings list during 2004 also
illustrates the substantial improvement that this
German women’s Volleyball team is making under coach
Hee Wan Lee and with the nucleus of the 2004 Olympic
side still together (30+ year olds Tanja Hart and
Christina Benecke are the only two players missing
from Athens) Germany will be a handful again during the World Grand
Germany finished ninth in Athens but will be better
for the experience, especially with key player
Grün still leading her troops superbly in her role
But Germany's advancement has not been an overnight
Winning the bronze medal at the 2003 European
Championships in Turkey installed a lot of belief,
which was evident when they claimed their ticket to
the Olympics at the European Continental
Olympic qualification tournament last year.
After a successful
era in the early to mid nineties, when the strong
players of the former German Democratic Republic had
a positive influence on the national team, then head
coach Siegfried Köhler began preparing junior
players with a view to being competitive in the
Olympic year 2000. This campaign, however, did not
bring the required results as was obvious during the
European Championships in the Czech Republic in 1997
where Germany made an early exit in the preliminary
In January 1998, when the "Bremen Cup" was a
qualification tournament for the World Championship
in Japan, Köhler called up the more experienced
Susanne Lahme and Nancy Celis. Germany qualified but
up against the best teams in the world, they failed
to register a victory, losing to the Dominican
Republic, Russia and Brazil. Following this
disappointment, Korean-born Hee Wan Lee replaced
Köhler and immediately had success with unexpected
victories against Poland and Croatia to send Germany
into the semifinals of the 1999 European
Championship in Italy.
Three months later, Germany fended off Romania, the
Ukraine, the Netherlands, Italy and Croatia in
European Olympic qualification to be assured of a
start at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Lee's aim was to
finish in the top eight in Sydney and his line-up
defeated Peru and Italy and qualified for the
quarterfinals. However, defeats to Brazil and China
resigned them to sixth place.
Following that great start Lee had further success
taking his side to the bronze medal at the 2002
World Grand Prix in Asia, where a new star in the
powerful Grün was unveiled. But regrettably,
Germany was unable to repeat that form as hosts of
the 2002 World Championship, finishing 10th, and at
the 2003 World Grand Prix, where they finished 7th.
However, last year's performance proved that Germany are getting back to their best and will definitely still be an imposing opponent.
Overall Standings for Germany
World Grand Prix Played
Total Matches played
Hee Wan Lee
Born in Seoul, South Korea in 1956, Lee came to Germany first as a player in 1985. Lee was South Korea’s best middle blocker, but when there was no setter available at his new club he stepped into this role. This and his later success as a coach caused him to be christened "Karajan of Volleyball" by the German Volleyball Magazine.
Lee graduated with a coaching diploma at the Cologne Sports Academy in 1995 while having early success in his coaching career with a German Championship title in 1994 and 1997, a European Cup Winners’ Cup silver medal in 1996 and then in 1999, he took the national team to fourth place at the European Championship.
Germany’s sixth place at the Sydney 2000 Olympics meant they finished the second most successful European team behind Russia. Since then Lee has maintained a good return with a 10th place finish at the 2002 World Championship and a seventh place finish at the 2003 World Grand Prix.
Now after another excellent World Grand Prix campaign in 2004 where Germany reached the final round and a sixth-place spot before finishing in ninth position at the 2004 Olympic Games, the great tactician that he is, Lee will be looking to maintain that sort of form and improve in 2005.