2017 Preview: World Grand Prix to celebrate 25th edition
From a sporting point of view, the most prestigious annual showdown in the world of women’s volleyball (July 7 to August 6) is also guaranteed to be an exciting affair. Defending champions Brazil will be out to win a twelfth title and make amends for the bitter disappointment suffered at their home Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year when they finished fifth.
Jose Roberto Guimaraes remains in his role as coach of the Brazilian women's team. “I have been with the squad for 13 years and we have a new challenge in this new cycle after the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” he said. The Olympic Champions from 2008 and 2012 were the favourites to win the women’s title in Rio but were stunned in the quarterfinals by gold medallists China (3-2).
“The motivation is the same,” Ze Roberto said emphatically. “To represent my country is one of the most important tasks that I have and I am very grateful for that. The great challenge of this next cycle is to continue keeping Brazilian volleyball among the best in the world. New, talented girls are emerging – a new generation. They are working very hard, vying for championships and achieving good results.” And this year's World Grand Prix will be the first step towards the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
It is not yet certain whether Olympic champions China will still be coached by their charismatic trainer “Jenny” Lang Ping. The first woman ever to win the Olympic volleyball competition as both a player (1984 in Los Angeles) and coach (2016 in Rio) is still considering her future. One thing is certain: the third Preliminary Round weekend (July 21-23) throws up a rematch of the Olympic final between China and Serbia. There will also be a repeat of the third/fourth place match from Rio, between the Netherlands and bronze medallists the USA. It will be interesting to see whether the two-team domination of the FIVB World Grand Prix can be ended, as only Brazil and the USA have triumphed since 2008.
The World Grand Prix is even bigger and better this year. An increase in the number of teams from 28 to 32 and record prize money of $600,000 are “key elements in the development of our sport,” said FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F°. “The World Grand Prix now features 32 teams. This is real development, this gives a real chance for many more countries around the world to participate in our sport," said President Graça. “Take a look at Group 2 of the competition which features two teams from Asia, two from NORCECA, two from South America and one from Africa in addition to the five teams from Europe. This is growth and development.”
The 2017 edition of the World Grand Prix will feature 32 teams, four more than from 2014 to 2016 when 28 countries participated. The World Grand Prix featured eight teams in its debut season back in 1993, and has grown consistently since. This year, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela are making their debut in the FIVB World Grand Prix, while Korea return to the competition.
Group 1 will see defending champions Brazil, world number 1 China, USA, Russia, Japan, Serbia, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Thailand, Belgium and newly promoted 2016 Group 2 winners the Dominican Republic competing against each other. The Group 1 Preliminary Round will be played over three weekends in four-team pools, with the top five of the combined standings joining the hosts in the Finals.
Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Peru, Poland, Puerto Rico, plus 2016 Group 3 winners Croatia form the twelve-team Group 2. As with Group 1, the Group 2 Preliminary Round will be played over three weekends in four-team pools, with the top three of the combined standings joining the Finals hosts the Czech Republic. Germany, Poland and Puerto Rico will be among the favourites in Group 2.
Group 3 features Australia, Algeria, Cameroon, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. The Group 3 Preliminary Round will be played in four-team pools over two weekends, followed by a Final Four tournament featuring the top three of the combined standings plus the event hosts. With more teams than ever before, there is guaranteed to be plenty of excitement all over the world.
FIVB World Grand Prix winners
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