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The Dominican Republic makes its Olympic Volleyball debut at Athens. Not that this is the first time the Dominican girls have come to Athens. Two years ago, they chose Greece as a venue to train in, hoping they would be back for the Olympics!

Volleyball has been an established sport in the Dominican Republic since 1916, but it took the national women’s team 58 years to get into a major international event – the 1974 World Championships in Mexico, where they finished 21st.

The major status of Volleyball in this Caribbean country was a fact by the end of the 1990s. In 1997 the DominicanRepublic won the bronze medal at the North America Championships. In 1998 it finished 11th at the WorldChampionships in Tokyo, Japan. In 1999 it hosted the Pan-American Games in the capital of Santo Domingo, and theteam was only just beaten for the gold medal (2-3) by the mighty Cuba.

The first decade of the new century began with a bronze medal in the North America Championships (2001), and a silver medal in the Mexico Pan-American Cup (2002). When the same event took place a year later, again in Mexico, the Dominican Republic had its biggest triumph to date, defeating Cuba 3-2 in the semi-finals to finish in second place.

The team, including stars such as Annerys Vargas Valdez, Evelyn Carrera Pichardo, Yudelkys Bautista, Cosiri Rodriguez,Milagros Cabral de la Cruz and Francia Jackson, is currently 14th in the world, and will be trying to stamp its mark on the Athens Olympics.There is plenty of experience in the line-up with five players having played more than 200 games and with the astute coaching of Jorge Garbey at the helm there is a well blended mix of youth, enthusiasm, experience and tactical awareness to make the Dominican Republic one team never to underestimate.