World Grand Prix 2004 Press & News WEEK 4 (27 July - 1 August)  
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2005 edition
Big day arrives – opening day of Final Round begins

Reggio Calabria, Italy, July 28, 2004 – The day all women's Volleyball fans have been waiting for has arrived. The opening day of the 2004 World Grand Prix Final Round is here and Reggio Calabria has put on a wonderful setting for an excellent showdown between the top six teams in women’s international Volleyball.

The World Grand Prix Final Round opens on Wednesday with two pools of three teams playing off for four semifinal spots, which will be played on Saturday, before the finals on Sunday.

Italy, China and USA will play off for two semifinal spots in Pool A, while Brazil, Cuba and Germany will face off in Pool B.

Proceedings begin with a superb clash between the top two teams from the Preliminary Round, which finished last weekend. Brazil, who progressed to the Final Round unbeaten, plays Cuba, who suffered their only loss to Brazil, in the opening match in Pool B at 15:00 (GMT). The last match for both teams was their clash in Rostock, Germany where Brazil running out winners 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 25-22).

Defending champions China play their opening match on Wednesday against hosts Italy at 18:00 (GMT) to complete a wonderful opening-day double header. These two teams also played their last Preliminary Round match against each other in Hefei, China with Italy winning 3-1 (16-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-20).

USA, ranked number two in the world, and Germany, who qualified in sixth position on the final weekend of the Preliminary Round, open their campaigns on Thursday.

The Americans take on China at 15:00 (GMT) and Germany play Cuba in the following match. Germany are in hot form having beaten USA 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 16-25, 25-17, 15-12) in their last Preliminary Round match to snatch the sixth Final Round place from Russia.

The clash between Brazil and Cuba is expected to turn on another fantastic display of offensive Volleyball. Cuba had three players Yumilka Ruiz, Yaima Ortiz and Zoila Barros finish in the top four of the best spikers during the Preliminary Round. While three Cubans finished in the top four of the best servers - Zoila Barros, Yumilka Ruiz and Liana Mesa.

Brazil have another tough assignment but they have the record and the talent to win again and after their Preliminary Round win, they will start the match as favourites.

USA’s Logan Tom sits as the best player so far of the tournament. Remembering all the individual awards start from zero for the Final Round, she finished the Preliminary Round as the top scorer with 158 points, sixth best spiker, third best server, and third best receiver.

Coaches countdown to crunch time at World Grand Prix

Reggio Calabria, Italy, July 27, 2004 – Brazil, Cuba, China, USA, Italy and Germany are in full preparation mode heading into the Final Round of the 2004 World Grand Prix in Reggio Calabria, Italy.

On the eve of the Final Round, where the top six teams from the Preliminary Round will face off in two pools of three teams to determine the semifinalists for Saturday, all six coaches gathered for the pre-tournament press conference in the beautiful Altafiumara Hotel on Tuesday.

Italy, China and USA will play off for two semifinalist spots in Pool A, while Brazil, Cuba and Germany will face off in Pool B.

Here’s what the coaches had to say:

Germany head coach Hee-Wan Lee: “We are extremely happy to be here in Italy for the Final Round. It was a great result for us to be here. Yes, we were surprised because a lot of people thought Russia was coming here and it was a surprise for me, but we are happy because it was a great accomplishment for us and will help female Volleyball in Germany a lot.”

USA head coach Toshi Yoshida: This Grand Prix final will be an important tournament for everybody ahead of the Olympics. We are going to try our best and hopefully we can play very well. It is wonderful to be here in this superb location for women’s Volleyball. We are looking forward to a great contest, one, which will be ideal preparation for Athens.”

Cuba head coach Luis Calderon: “It has a long and hard struggle to get this far in the competition, three weeks of struggling, but now we have reached the all-important Final Round we would like to compete as best we can against the most powerful women’s teams in the world.”

Italy head coach Marco Bonitta: “We have been changing our team lineup a lot before coming here so we would like to improve our team as we would like to finish amongst the top in this Final Round. “Of course we have six of the best teams in the world, so we would like to improve during these next few days, however it will be tough for us.”

China head coach Zhonghe Chen: “It is the first time that we come here in Reggio Calabria. We worked a lot to be here in the top six and of course we are in preparation for the Olympics but our target is the gold medal here in Reggio Calabria where hopefully we can defend our title from last year.”

Brazil head coach Jose Guimaraes: “I would firstly like to say thank you so much for the hospitality, we are extremely glad to be here. We hope to win and do very well in this part of the competition but we are also practicing for the Olympics in August. It will a fascinating five days this week and we are looking to a good tournament.”

anticipation ahead of Final Round

Reggio Calabria, Italy, July 26, 2004 – The tension and excitement is building up in the south of Italy as the Final Round of the World Grand Prix, the premier women’s event on the FIVB Volleyball calendar, begins on Wednesday.

Although scorching sun has given way to rain on Monday, all six finalists - Brazil, Cuba, China, USA, Italy and Germany – arrived in Reggio Calabria safe and sound looking for the best result ahead of the Athens Olympics.

Here’s what the players had to say ahead of the big event:

Brazil – Fabiana: “We want to perform well. Our team is ready to cope with these finals. Even if we are already thinking about Athens 2004, we want to win. The World Grand Prix is a very important event. After the tough training schedule in Brazil, our aim is to reach the Olympics in the best form”.

Germany - Angelina Grün: “The principal aim in these finals is to play at our best, as we have nothing to lose. We already reached an important result reaching the Final Six in Reggio Calabria. We will play trying to keep on surprising”.

Cuba - Yumilka Ruiz: “We played great in the Preliminary Round, losing only one match against Brazil. Our result in the Final Round will depend most of all on the first day, when we have the chance to play again against Brazil. To win the first game will make our tournament easier. After the Final Round, we will close our preparation towards Athens 2004 with some final practice sessions”.

China - Na Zhang: “The World Grand Prix represents a very important event. The aim, of course, is to reach the gold medal, even if our preparation is focused principally on the Olympics”.

USA - Stacy Sykora: “It’s always tough to contest the World Grand Prix. You need to play for a long, intense period without resting. This year’s edition is very important because the Olympics are going to start within 20 days. These days will be fundamental in our perfection of our play. We are not thinking about the other teams, we are focused only in our play. It’s very important to reach a good result here. A medal at the World Grand Prix will permit us to leave for Athens with enthusiasm”.

Italy - Manuela Leggeri: “We want to perform well in these finals. We are playing at home and we are coming from a positive series. We have the chance to play such an important event in the hot and enthusiastic atmosphere of Reggio Calabria, that I know so well as I played in the local club some years ago. Of course, as we are coming from the long Asian round and the great aim of the season, Athens 2004, is so close, we are not at our best”.

All six teams confirmed their places in the Final Round in the last weekend of the Preliminary Round, with Germany the big mover, pipping Russia and Poland for sixth spot.