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Chen looks to Tianjin trio for Grand Champions lift

China's head coach Chen Zhonghe

"Her technique is very good in all aspects of play," coach Chen said of the 23-year-old attacker, following a training session at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Monday.

"She played very well in the National Games, like all the members of the Tianjin team. They were strong in all positions."

As the reigning Olympic champions, the world number one and the holders of the Grand Champions Cup, Asian champions China will start the fourth edition of this event as the favourites. But Brazil, the South American champions, will provide a tough first test in the opening match of the tournament, scheduled for noon on Tuesday.

Brazil won the World Grand Prix Final Round in Sendai, Japan, in July, and victory here would confirm them as the world's top women's team for 2005.

"It's going to be a very hard game to start with," said Chen.

"Brazil are a strong team and difficult to play against, but if we play to our best we can do it.

"At the World Grand Prix Final Round we started slowly and grew stronger as the week went on, but this time we cannot afford to do that. We must be on top of our game from the very beginning if we are to beat Brazil and win the Grand Champions Cup again."

The Chinese arrived in Tokyo on Friday, and, with no jet lag, have had three full days to prepare, following a camp at Tianjin. But Chen describes the team condition only as "so-so".

"The players took part in the National Games so are still tired from that," he said.

"We have not had enough time to train together."

The four other teams chasing the first prize of US$300,000 are the United States (Norceca champions), South Korea (wild card), Poland (European champions) and Japan (hosts).

The first two rounds will be played in Tokyo on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the six teams head for Nagoya for the final three rounds, from Friday to Sunday.

The men's competition will take place from November 22 to 27 in Nagano and Tokyo.

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