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Goller backs Chen Xue and Zhang Xi for World Champs gold

Sara Goller is backing Zhang Xi (left) and Chen Xue to win the World Championships
Stare Jablonki, Poland, June 29, 2013 - Former FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour regular and double Olympian Sara Goller of Germany singles out the Chinese bronze medallists from two years ago Zhang Xi and Chen Xue as the ones to beat as she casts her eye over the women's field ahead of the the World Championships in Stare Jablonki, which start on Monday.

"It has been a very interesting season so far, as it always is after the Olympic Games. There's room for younger teams to make their way to the top; a bunch of players have ended their careers, some team combinations have changed, while some teams have taken a longer break after the Games. In the woman's competition I definitely see a lot of upcoming teams taking their chances and gaining good results.

"Brazilians Talita and Lima have definitely impressed me so far. You could tell beforehand that they are two incredibly talented and experienced players and while you would also have expected them to be successful, the way they have already played in their first few tournaments together is remarkable.

"The Brazilians in general have a good pool of athletes that have worked surprisingly well in their new teams. Maria Antonelli and Agatha Bednarczuk are another team to watch out for, as are Maria Clara and Carol Salgado, who has impressed after taking a break to have a baby.

"From the Europeans I have to name Madelein Meppelink and Sophie Van Gestel of The Netherlands. I saw them improving a lot last season and I was expecting them to do well this year, but they have massively exceeded my expectations.

"I'm not sure why the Chinese pairing Chen Xue and Zhang Xi didn't play the last couple of events, but if they are fit and healthy they are my number one pick for the women. Talita and Lima would be also in the pot as favourites to win for me.

"The Germans, especially the girls, have done very well this season.  Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler have enjoyed a consistent season and are definitely on my teams-to-watch-list for Poland. My former partner, little Laura (Ludwig), has found a great substitute with Kira Walkenhorst. They still are a little inconsistent and need some time but they are definitely one the teams to keep an eye on in the future and if they do play to their potential in Poland, a medal is not unrealistic.

"Karla Borger and Britta Buthe have also improved a lot, as their fourth place finish in Rome showed. They have a full time coach now and you can tell that this was a good decision.

"We always have a lot of incredibly talented boys and girls at age-group level and I would say we have the best pool of juniors together with Brazil. Victoria Bieneck and Isabell Schneider are one example with their gold medal at the FIVB U23 World Championships but there are many more. The big task will be to complete the step from junior to senior level and play successfully on the World Tour as the next generation after 2016.

"I haven’t had too much time to miss playing since retiring after the London 2012 Olympic Games, but I am still close to the sport through my new job with Sky Deutschland. Jonas Reckermann and I are part of the team that covers the German Tour. They are doing a great job in promoting our wonderful sport and I am proud to be part of that team.

"I will be keeping an eye on events in Stare Jablonki and would like to use this opportunity to wish all the teams the very best of luck."

Sara Goller is a former beach volleyball player from Germany who retired from the sport following her participation in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Together with long-time partner Laura Ludwig, Goller also won the silver medal at the Rome Grand Slam in 2012. Goller also won silver at the Espinho Open, bronze at the Klagenfurt Grand Slam and silver at the European Championships. In 2008 she won the European Championships and finished ninth at the Olympics. In 2009 she finished on the podium three times before increasing that total to five in 2010, a year in which she won her second European Championship.

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