Beijing, July 11: Again, a Chinese star player was injured. And again, a disappointing fifth finish in the 2012 women’s volleyball World Grand Prix Finals, the most important competition before the London Olympic Games.
It’s like history is repeating itself. Only this time, the injury-haunted Chinese women volleyball team, once champion in the 2004 Athens Games and bronze medal winners in the Beijing Games, has a much bumpier road to get onto the podium in London, reports Xinhua.
“We will try our best to survive through the preliminary round, but to achieve this, a lot of things will have to fall into place,” said China’s head coach Yu Juemin, who used to be an assistant coach for more than 10 years, and took the helm in 2010.
In truth, it won’t be a no-brainer for the Chinese women to advance to the quarter-finals. They will play in the same pool in London along with defending champion Brazil, world’s No.1 US, Serbia, Turkey and South Korea. Italy, Russia, Japan, Algeria, the Dominican Republic and host Britain make up the other six-team pool.
The top four teams to emerge out of each pool will play the quarter-finals. China will play the first game against Serbia at Earls Court on July 28.
Injuries are the primary worry weighing upon the coach’s mind.
Eight years ago in Athens, China’s middle blocker Zhao Ruirui was back onto the court after a year-long recovery from a fractured right shin bone, but the 1.97-meter “fragile beauty” was hurt only three minutes into her first game and bade the Olympics a hurried farewell.
However, the Chinese team, despite Zhao’s absence, put themselves together and finally rallied past Russia in a five-set thriller for their first Olympic gold in 20 years.
Coincidentally, China’s medal dreams in London seems to hang on its top spiker Wang Yimei, who has suffered ankle ligament damage for two months. Now Wang has joined her teammates in the last few weeks of preparation for London Games.
With her powerful spikes and rich international experience, Wang is now the unrivalled queen of Chinese volleyball. But nobody can tell if Zhao’s misfortune will happen to Wang in London, even herself.
“Now, I can do some basic training, but not with team mates yet,” said Wang.
“I need to be fully focused on training and treatment now, having no time to think about what will happen in London,” she said.
Besides Wang, China’s first-string players, including setter Wei Qiuyue, libero Zhang Xian, opposite hitter Zeng Chunlei, all have injuries, which have directly affected their performance at this year’s World Grand Prix Finals.
“Generally speaking, I’m not satisfied with our performances at the tournament. Our young players are not technically and mentally matured as the strong teams like the U.S. and the Brazil, and we don’t have lethal wing spikers like Sheila (Castro) from Bazil or Destinee Hooker from the U.S., who have the ability to change games for their sides,” said Yu after his team finished the six-team round robin with only one win against four losses.
“We also need to improve our teamwork as soon as possible. We still have time to make some adjustments and I am sure our team will be in better shape in London,” he said.