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Germany may not be everybody’s idea of a gold medalistbut they are still a team to be reckoned with.Occupying 11th position on the FIVB official world rankings list, an ever improving German women’s Volleyball team will be one of the toughest teams to beat in Athens. Winning the bronze medal at the 2003 European Championships in Turkey installed a lot of belief, which was evident when they claimed an Olympic ticket in January at the European Continental Olympic qualification tournament.

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 round.

In January 1998, when the “Bremen Cup” was a qualification tournament for the World Championship in Japan, 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 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 Angelina 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. They were only seventh in the World Cup in 2003, but with Grün and Judith Sylvester in attack, they have the potential to ride high again.