It’s a sell-out: China to begin Hong Kong campaign against Netherlands in World Grand Prix
Chinese coach Lang Ping will meet her old team, the United States, in the tournament finale on Sunday as fans will catch a glimpse of some of the teams competing in the Rio Olympics in action
Fans of this weekend’s sold-out Hong Kong leg of the women’s World Grand Prix will watch a prelude to this summer’s Olympics with China, the United States and the Netherlands in action at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
Both China and the United States have been drawn in the same group of six at the Rio Games, along with the Netherlands. Serbia, Italy and Puerto Rico make up the other teams in China’s group for Rio. Germany, who failed to qualify for Rio, complete the Hong Kong line-up for the three-day volleyball extravaganza as tickets were snapped up by fans wanting to see their favourite team return to action during an Olympic year.
Chinese coach Lang Ping will face the Netherlands first on Friday before coming up against the team she coached to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the United States, in the tournament’s grand finale on Sunday at the 10,000-capacity venue.
Lang, who is back as coach of the Chinese team, tasted victory against the Americans in the opening week of the world grand prix series in Ningbo, Zhejiang two weeks ago. But Lang said the 3-1 victory wouldn’t count for much as the Americans have not sent their best team to Hong Kong and they are likely to be a different proposition in Rio.
“They [US] are not sending all their best players to the grand prix and they are holding back on their strength,” ,said Lang during a press conference for the four-team tournament which kicks off on Friday. Molly Kreklow, one of the United States’ best players who helped her team to the World Grand Prix title and voted the best setter last year, is not on the team roster for Hong Kong.
“I do not know the reason why the United States have left some of their best players behind. I do not want to guess why because every team have their own agenda.
"But all we [China] want to do is to win as many games as possible to boost our confidence. Many of our players are still very young and lack international exposure. Our spiker Zhu Ting has been making strong progress at international level but she did not compete at the last Olympic Games [in London].”
China are currently leading the 12-team grand prix after two weeks of competition, winning all their six matches, along with Russia, who have also maintained a perfect record so far. The Americans are third with five wins, followed by Rio Games hosts Brazil, while the Dutch women are fifth. The top five teams, plus hosts Thailand, will meet in the grand prix finals in Bangkok next week.
China, meanwhile, are racing against time to get their ace players fit for the first game against the Netherlands on Friday with both Hui Ruoqi and Zeng Chunlei suffering from flu. Germany, who lost all their six previous games, will take on the United States in Friday’s match.
“I hope they can play on Friday as we are going to face the same opponents [Netherlands] in Rio,” said Lang. “Hui did not train today while Zeng has been having a fever since Tuesday.”
The future of star player Hui, an outside hitter, was dealt a blow last year after she had to undergo heart surgery to correct a cardiac arrhythmia problem.
“She has been making good progress after returning to the team this year but it will take time before she can fully regain her best form,” said the coach. “We are closely monitoring her condition as Hui needs to go through medical check ups every two to three weeks. Results are important for the team but the player’s health always comes first.”