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'Mental focus’ key to Grand Prix title win - Virna Dias

China has made 'an excellent come back' says Virna Dias after the team took their 12th straight win in this year's World Grand Prix over the US on Friday.

Lausanne, Switzerland, August 30, 2013 – This year’s exciting World Grand Prix will come to an end  on Saturday. Virna Dias, former star of the Brazil national team, takes a look back on the volleyball action since the start of the tournament and tells who she expects to see holding the trophy high at the end of the season.

“The first year in a new Olympic cycle is always interesting as national teams change in dynamic and character as new players are introduced to the line-up and play side-by-side the more experienced athletes on the team. Almost all the teams that played in the World Grand Prix this season featured new players, which meant we saw lots of new talent gaining prominence on the courts. While these players had the chance to learn from the best, it also ensured the experienced members of the team worked hard to maintain their best form.

“I believe that the increase in the number of teams has been extremely beneficial to the quality of volleyball that we have seen at the 2013 World Grand Prix as the competition has been stiff compared to other years.

“China has made an excellent come back and they are the team to watch out for in the years to come as I certainly feel they are in with a chance for a medal at the Olympic Games in 2016.

“This has been a close competition so far and the finalist teams have been equal in skill and talent. I was not surprised to see Brazil in Sapporo as they have qualified for the Finals ever since 2003. China and Serbia are in great shape while Italy’s traditional volleyball school has held it in good stead over the competition. The US had to fight hard for their place in the Finals and while it is a pity they will miss out on a medal this year, their young team has come far under the leadership of Karch Kiraly. The Japanese players have also ensured that they have given their best to the local fans during their matches.

“Every match in this year’s World Grand Prix has been a hard one and the finalists have had to fight hard to earn their place in Sapporo.  All the players have given their best but it will be the team that stands up best to the pressure and is able to keep its mental focus who will achieve the top spot on the podium.

“I believe that Brazil has a good chance of winning the gold medal this year. We have a excellent team and this new Olympic cycle has introduced some gifted players like Gabi, Camila Brait and the twins Michelle and Monique.  

“Above all Brazil has Ze Roberto, a fantastic coach who may be obstinate at times, but who understands the female psyche well and knows how to lead and help his team achieve larger goals.

“I will be watching and keeping my fingers crossed that Brazil can once again take the top spot on the podium this year!”

Virna Dias is a former Brazilian national team player and three-time Olympian. She won bronze at the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Games and finished fourth at the 2004 Athens Games. Virna also won the 2004 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and clinched silver in 1999, where she also claimed the MVP, Best Receiver and Best Scorer awards. She was also a FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup silver medallist in 2003.

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Virna Dias: Virna predicts another great year for Olympic champs Brazil
Andrea Zorzi: Andrea Zorzi looks forward to this year’s World League action
Stacy Sykora: Women’s volleyball looking forward to bumper year
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