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Hosts Japan aiming for home win
As hosts of the 2013 World Grand Prix Finals, Japan are
guaranteed a place in the Finals. But the team is yet to win
the World Grand Prix title.
Defensive experts and Olympic bronze medallists, Japan
have set their sights clearly on becoming the number
one team by the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Ace spiker Saori Kimura was named captain of the team,
replacing Erika Araki but with plenty of new faces this
season, setter Hitomi Nakamichi has the big task of filling
in for chief playmaker, Yoshie Takeshita, who has retired
from the game.
Former winners looking to regain glory
Two teams who do know how it feels to lift the coveted
trophy are three-time winners Russia and China. However,
both national teams are in something of a transitional
period.
For Russia, former team leaders and world stars Ekaterina
Gamova and Lioubov Sokolova are no longer in the line-up
and there is a new coach at the helm. Dynamo Krasnador
coach Yuri Marichev now leads Russia’s women’s team.
Marichev is looking to introduce a more modern style of
play to the Russians, just as coaching legend Lang Ping
is in China.
Former Olympic gold medallist for China in 1984, Lang
Ping has also coached the US team to silver at the 2008
Beijing Olympics. She has now returned home to coach
the national team but will be entering the 2013 World
Grand Prix without Wei Qiuyue, Ma Yunwen, Chu Jinling
and Mi Yang.
Other teams in the running for podium glory
There are a number of European contenders for the
title. However, Italy is missing key players like Eleonora
Lo Bianco, Francesca Piccinini and Simona Gioli from its
team this year, while Germany will have to work without
Angelina Hübner.
Germany travel to the World Grand Prix on the back of
their first triumph in the 2013 European League. They
are also looking to build their confidence ahead of the
European Championship that will take place on home
soil from September 6 to 14. Coach Giovanni Guidetti’s
team could be good for a shock or two, as could two-time
winners Cuba and European champions Serbia and last
year’sWorld Grand Prix bronze medallists Turkey. Massimo
Barbolini is now the coach of the Turkish team and the
former coach of the Italian national team joins Guidetti
in a lengthy list of Italian coaches among the 20 teams in
this year’s World Grand Prix.
The field also includes three debutants.Algeria are the first
African team to take part, while Bulgaria and the Czech
Republic are also new to the competition.
One thing is clear. Whoever takes this year’s World Grand
Prix title will have to work hard to pull ahead of the
competition and carve their niche among the world’s best
in the sport of volleyball.