Lausanne, Switzerland, April 18, 2018 - Introducing the top teams in the current world rankings, the first installment in this series takes a look at the team ranked number 1 in women's volleyball - Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games gold medallists China.
The 2015 FIVB World Cup winners, 2016 Olympic champions and 2017 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup winners – China’s women have won a major international volleyball title in each of the last three years.
They would love to make it two in 2018. As the number one team in the world, the ladies from the Middle Kingdom go into the keenly-anticipated inaugural season of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League as the hot favourite.
The competition takes on even greater importance when you look at last season, when the Chinese had to settle for a disappointing fourth place at the final round of the last ever FIVB World Grand Prix on home soil in Nanjing.
This year also throws up a second highlight, in the form of the Japan 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championships. China are hungry to win gold again, after 32 years – last time out, in 2014, they had to make do with the silver medal, following a final defeat to the USA.
“My team and I try to win every match. I hope the Chinese women's volleyball team will always develop and become better,” said Zhu Ting in an interview with the FIVB.
Coming from the mouth of the captain of the national team, this sounds almost like a threat to the opposition. After all, China has been the outstanding team in recent years, and MVP Zhu Ting has been a huge part of that success. The team and the millions of fans in China are looking forward to the FIVB Nations League – particularly as they will welcome the top teams to their home tournaments.
China faces the Dominican Republic, Belgium and South Korea on the opening weekend in Ningbo, China, from 15th to 17th May. Following tournaments in Macau and Hong Kong, they then return to Jianmen for the showdown against fellow favourites Brazil, who won the last FIVB World Grand Prix, world champions the USA, and record world champions Russia. These are exactly the matches the fans want to see – and the FIVB Volleyball Nations League is making this possible.
The “eternal” duel with Brazil enters its next round in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. In 2017, the South Americans won the first title of the season at the FIVB World Grand Prix – in China, of all places.
China then took revenge at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Grand Champions Cup. They defeated their South American rivals 3-2 (25-20, 25-12, 20-25, 23-25, 19-17) in what proved to be the decisive match of the six-team tournament, which was played in a round robin format. The Chinese fended off two match points to clinch that all-important victory, which was a repeat of the Olympic quarter-final in Rio, where China ended Brazilian dreams of a home win. It goes without saying that the match winner in a top-class game at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium was Zhu Ting with 33 points.
It ultimately came down to a battle of nerves between two outstanding teams, and Zhu Ting made the difference with a total of 100 points from China’s five victories. The hitter was also leading scorer.
Even after this latest success, China’s coach An Jiajie still sees room for improvement: “We are very happy to be the champions and I want to express my deep gratitude to my players and coaches. There is still room for improvement in critical areas and that will be our next challenge. It was the first year of the new Olympic cycle, so this was an important year for us.”
China will aim to make 2018 another memorable year – by continuing their title-winning run in the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
Star of the team: Zhu Ting
Zhu Ting (23) is currently regarded as probably the best female volleyball player in the world. In 2015, she guided her Chinese team to success at the FIVB World Cup as the tournament’s MVP. One year later, she was again named MVP as she helped China to a historic gold at the Olympic Games in Rio.
In 2017, she won the FIVB Club World Championship with her new club Vakifbank Istanbul and was awarded MVP again. Zhu Ting also won the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup with China – naturally as the outstanding player and MVP. Despite her young age, the extraordinary hitter is now captain of the Chinese team. In spite of all this success, she has kept her feet planted firmly on the ground: “Volleyball is a wonderful sport. That’s important for me, and my team is important.”
Zhu Ting is a star in China, and is recognised when she walks down the street. A lot of her success is down to legendary coach “Jenny” Lang Ping, who led the team to Olympic success in Rio, among other titles: “It's very important that Lang Ping taught me a lot of techniques. I’m as good as I am and have today's technology thanks to Lang Ping. I'm very lucky in volleyball, because so many people helped me on my way. I wouldn’t be here without them. Talent and hard work are equally important.” Zhu Ting is looking to add to what is already a remarkable career – at least by the 2024 Olympic Games.